The 2014 federal budget plans were released April 10, and NASA is slated for $17.7 billion, a decrease of less than 1 percent.
NASAís Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif., is budgeted at $261.9 million, an increase of about 3 percent.
Congress has to authorize these fiscal year 2014 figures in the coming months. The comparisons are to fiscal 2012 totals, as this yearís expenditures are still uncertain, as the funding is via a continuing resolution and because of sequestration.
The center will be operating with stable funding and a stable set of objectives, when the budget is authorized and appropriated, said Director David McBride. He feels that ìNASA gets a better bang for the buck here than at some other centers.î Dryden is one of the smallest centers, and is involved in many high priority NASA programs.
Drydenís budget is organized to correspond to the major directorates at NASA headquarters. The largest segment is Science at $72 million, which is an increase of $1.1 million. The next largest is Aeronautical Research at $61 million, a decrease of $5.4 million. The Space Technology sector is budgeted at $25 million, for an increase of $6.5 million. Exploration Systems are at $5.6 million, an increase of $1.8 million. Education support is down to $800,000. The centerís operation costs are put at $65 million. The final line item is Construction and Environmental Compliance Restoration at $32 million. This is up by about $10 million.
Science programs include the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, Earth Science observations from aircraft, with an emphasis on climate change, and continued development of sensing instrumentation, and Venture Class missions for Earth Science. SOFIA is transitioning from development to pure science missions.
The lower funding level should not affect Drydenís work on introducing Unmanned Aerial Systems into the National Air Space, but there will be less academic outreach. The cooperative project on the X 48-C blended wing-body aircraft is presently being completed, and is not affected by the reduced funding level.
Dryden is the lead center for the Flight Opportunities Research program. It matches suborbital flight capability of commercial firms with researcherís needs for low gravity research.
Several Mojave firms such as Masten Space Systems, XCOR Aerospace and Virgin Galactic offer such flights; along with Armadillo Aerospace and UP Aerospace. Masten has made several flights to support Draper Labs new Genie guidance system. The increased funding is in line with the NASA-wide funding increase for this category.
The increased funding for Exploration Systems will provide for Dryden testing of the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle. Dryden performed testing of the Orion capsule escape system several years ago.
The agency budget in support of educational projects has been drastically reduced.
This reflects the federal realignment of such activities under the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution. There are currently about 260 projects to support science, technology, engineering and math education [STEM] which are being consolidated into about 120.
Construction, Environmental Compliance Restoration
The increase in CECR funds will accomplish several projects. Unneeded facilities used for space shuttle activities will be demolished. These include the Mate/Demate Facility and several temporary buildings. McBride observed that it is cheaper to remove these than to continually assure that they are safe. The Research Aircraft Facility will be upgraded. Some water and sewer lines, which date back to the 1950s, will be redone.
Cost Reimbursable Projects
McBride noted that the present budget does not include projects for which the center costs are re-reimbursed.
One such project that will start in the near future is a glide test of the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser. It is based on lifting body HL-20. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is funding the development of the vehicle as a possible cargo or crew carrier to the International Space Station.