White House wants to cut NASA’s aerospace funds

 - March 29, 2007, 1:25 PM

While the Aerospace Industries Association calls for more money for aeronautics research and development, the Bush White House wants a NASA budget that would slash funding for this type of work.

NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2005 requests just $919 million for aeronautics, compared with $946 million in the current fiscal year. However, NASA’s overall budget is $16.244 billion, up 5.6 percent from this year’s total of $15.378 billion.

When NASA unveiled its budget request to Congress, it released two companion documents: Fiscal Year 2005 Budget Estimates and The Vision for Space Exploration, a framework for exploration of the solar system and beyond.

The Vision for Space Exploration serves as the bridge between the policy direction the President outlined in his speech about U.S. space exploration early this year and NASA’s budget request. It lays out guiding principles for exploration, and establishes a roadmap for missions to the moon (including the establishmnt of a base on the barren orb), Mars “and other compelling destinations in the solar system and beyond,” according to NASA officials.

Back here on earth, the largest portion of the $919 million aeronautics budget–$209 million–will go to reduce the emissions and enhance the efficiency of aircraft, thus improving the environment. The next largest portion is $188 million for aviation safety and security projects (4 percent above FY 2004), aimed at reducing accident and fatality rates and reducing the vulnerability of the aviation system to terrorist and criminal threats.

NASA would use $154 million to provide technologies that can dramatically increase the capacity and mobility of the nation’s air transportation system, in close coordination with the FAA. Another $133 million would be used for flight and systems demonstration of enabling aeronautics technologies.

The Bush Administration budget also calls for $72 million to reduce the noise made by aircraft, improving the quality of life around airports. That figure is 11 percent higher than in FY 2004. The aeronautics budget also contains $7 million to study technologies and concepts that might enable planetary craft in support of the new space vision. NASA noted that in the current fiscal year aeronautics and exploration systems will become separate enterprises.

According to NASA, major events next year will:

• Demonstrate a 70-percent reduction in nitrous oxide emissions in full-scale tests of combustor configurations suitable for a large subsonic vehicle.

• Demonstrate integrated technologies and policies that would allow routine UAV flight operations
in the National Airspace System above 40,000 feet.

• Complete human-in-the-loop concept and technology evaluation of shared aircraft separation.

• Conduct experimental flight evaluation of key Small Airplane Transportation System (SATS) enabling technologies.

• Accomplish the objective of developing technologies that will enable a 50-percent reduction in the fatal accident rate that prevailed from 1991 to 1996.

An Important Role

NASA noted that its “aeronautics enterprise” is the sole steward of the agency’s aeronautics investments. By developing and transferring technologies, NASA said its investments in aeronautics technology play a key role in creating a safer, more secure, environmentally friendly and efficient air-transportation system, increasing performance of military aircraft and developing new platforms for scientific or commercial uses.

According to the agency, it also enhances the nation’s security through its partnerships with the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security and the FAA. Research areas include advanced propulsion technologies; lightweight, high-strength adaptable structures; revolutionary display and control systems; adverse weather countermeasures; adaptive controls; advanced vehicle designs; and new collaborative design and development tools. In collaboration with the FAA, research is conducted in air traffic management technologies for new automation tools and concepts of operations.

NASA said that in FY 2003 its aeronautics enterprise made substantial progress in icing safety, emissions reductions, more efficient aircraft engines, sonic-boom reduction and easing air-traffic congestion.