Reuters
CAPE CANAVERAL-President Barack Obama’s 2015 Nasa budget plan includes funding for a robotic mission to an ocean-bearing moon of Jupiter and could help boost commercial ventures to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, Nasa officials said on Tuesday.
The White House is requesting a $17.5 billion budget for the US space agency in the fiscal year that begins Oct 1. That marks a 1 percent decrease from NASA’s 2014 budget. But NASA could also have access to an additional $900 million from Obama’s proposed Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative, a $56 billion fund for special projects that is separate from the regular budget.
If approved, the agency would have $1.1 billion next year to help at least two companies develop commercial space taxis to fly astronauts to and from the space station. The $100 billion research outpost, a project of 15 nations, flies about 260 miles (420 km) above Earth. Since the space shuttles were retired in 2011, the United States in dependent on Russia to fly crews to the space station at a cost of more than $65 million a seat. For now, escalating U.S. tensions with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine have not affected the space partnership, NASA Administrator Charles Boldentold reporters on a conference call.
“We are continuing to monitor the situation,” Bolden said. “Right now, everything is normal in our relationship with the Russians,” he said.
Currently, NASA is supporting space taxi designs by Boeing Co, privately owned Space Exploration Technologies and privately owned Sierra Nevada Corp. The agency intends to select at least two companies for a final round of development funding this summer. Obama wants to have U.S. options for flying astronauts to the station before the end of 2017. The so-called Commercial Crew program is receiving $696 million for the 2014 fiscal year ending Sept. 30. The proposed funding increase would add as much as $400m to the program for fiscal 2015.  The new budget also includes $3.1 billion for NASA to operate the station and provides $2.8 billion to continue development of the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket and Orion capsule for future human missions to the moon, asteroids and Mars.