Bright House Networks' News 13 reports that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden estimates that the vote by Congress to severely cut commercial crew funding may delay the first flight to at least 2017.
Bolden's written statement to the Senate science and space subcommittee on November 17 estimated a delay until at least 2017 based on the $500 million figure that was proposed for FY12 by the Senate.
NASA has been told consistently by a broad range of potential providers that private sector partners expect to be able to achieve the capability to provide commercial spaceflight services to the ISS within 3-5 years from initial development start. NASA’s FY 2012 budget request of $850 million for CCP would provide that initial start in FY 2012 for the development of commercial crew transportation systems, which NASA believes would enable services to ISS to be possible in the 2016 timeframe. A reduction in funding from the President’s request could significantly impact the program’s schedule, risk posture, and acquisition strategy. NASA’s initial analysis shows that a FY 2012 funding level of $500 million (consistent with the 2010 NASA Authorization Act) implemented with the current contract-based NASA acquisition strategy would delay initial capability to ISS to 2017, assuming additional funding is available in the outyears. (Emphasis in the original.)
The enacted amount of $406 million would seem to push commercial crew flights even further into the future, raising the question of whether the entire endeavour will be worth the effort. Current agreements with International Space Station partners expire in 2020, although the ISS was designed to fly until 2028.