Emerging Tech

Sequester Budget Cuts Imperil America’s Fledgling Private Space Industry

Technicians prepare for the SpaceX 1 mission launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. in 2012.

Technicians prepare for the SpaceX 1 mission launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. in 2012. // NASA

The budget impasse in Washington caused flight delays (until Congress fixed that) and cut million in funding for everything science research to pre-k teachers. Next up? The companies building spacecraft for NASA.

Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation are competing to build the replacement the Space Shuttle to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station; at least until 2017, those duties will be handled by Russia’s space program.

The US space agency wants $821 million to fund the development of these space craft next year; the best case scenario would give them $775 million, but it’s likely the agency will have to make do with $500 million. NASA says the sequester cuts ”jeopardize the success of the commercial crew program and ensure that we continue to outsource jobs to Russia.”

Why such a wide range of funding possibilities? Democrats in the Senate are assuming that across-the-board cuts imposed by budget sequestration will be alleviated by bipartisan deal-making, while the Republican House expects the cuts to stay in place. An agreement will need to be made before the new fiscal year begins in October, and it’s likely to result in funding on the lower end of the spectrum.

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// April 16