An appropriations bill signed by President Trump on February 15 has increased NASA’s budget for the fiscal year 2019 to $21.5 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion.
The bill to approve NASA’s funding was combined with several other appropriations bills that were approved with a majority by the House and Senate on February 14. The majority of the increase (just over $1 billion) has been allocated to NASA’s science programs. This includes $280 million more for the Europa Clipper orbiter and $195 million for a follow-on lander that will touch down on Jupiter’s icy moon.
NASA’s manned space program continues to receive a large portion of NASA’s budget with the Space Launch System (SLS) to receive $2.5 billion, and the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) $150 million. The budget also included funds to purchase additional seats on Soyuz crewed launches for the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. This is likely the result of continued delays suffered by the agency’s commercial crew program.
Although the new budget bodes well for NASA in 2019, the bill did include language that expressed a “profound disappointment” in the James Webb Space Telescope schedule overruns and ballooning cost. The bill continues to state that should issues with the telescope continue, the House may recommend cost savings or even cancellation, a result that would be devastating to the scientific community.
In an era where many are choosing to cut budgets for space exploration, NASA new budget is a welcome change. The news is sure to lift the spirits of many in the community who have been disappointed with the recent Roscosmos budget cuts. The Russia space agency will receive $200 million in funding less this year with further cuts expected over the next two years.