New NASA priorities open billions in new opportunities

With less focus on human space exploration, other tech areas will grow

NASA might be cutting $1 billion from its space operations budget but a new study claims there are billions in opportunities in science and technology areas.

“As NASA shifts priorities for human spaceflight from shuttle operations to human exploration capabilities and commercial spaceflight, the budget will be redirected to a range of technology development programs,” said Steve Bochinger, president of Euroconsult North America.

The firm and its partner Omnis Inc. have released a new study, NASA Spending Outlook: Trends to 2016, which analyzes NASA’s budget.

As space operations shrink, the science budget will be redistributed among NASA centers, Bochinger said.

Among the findings:

  • The Science Mission Directorate saw an 11 percent bump in 2011 and will have a $5 billion through 2016. Goddard Space Flight Center and Langley Research Center will benefit because of the work on Earth science projects.
  • The Exploration Systems Mission Directorate will hold steady at about $3.9 billion but funds will shift away from human exploration activities.
  • The new Space Technology Directorate will get $1 billion a year from 2012 to 2016. Langley, Glenn and Ames research centers will benefit because of their work on new technologies for exploration and robotic spaceflight.
  • NASA is restructuring the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to focus on fundamental aeronautics and development of technologies for the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

The study also predicts that NASA’s business practices will have to change with a shift from cost-plus contracting to more fixed-price contracting.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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