CAPE CANAVERAL — Efforts to update infrastructure at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., to accommodate a mix of commercial and government rockets is off to a slow start under the Obama administration’s $18.7 billion spending plan for NASA for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
The Florida spaceport would receive $128 million to kick off its 21st Century Launch Complex program and a total of $470 million over five years, the president’s new budget shows. Obama last year requested $500 million in 2012 and $1.9 billion over five years for the project.
The new spending plan includes $1.8 billion for a new heavy-lift launch vehicle, a program that should buttress overall spending at KSC.
“It’s a reasonable budget for the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) given all the constraints we have, and given what our overall goals are,” center director Bob Cabana told reporters.
Overall employment at KSC is expected to fall to about 8,500 contractors and civil service workers, down from about 13,000 employees today.
The budget includes $665 million for shuttle operations next year, though none of that money will be for actually flying the remaining three missions on NASA’s planned manifest. Instead, $548 million will be used to pay the pensions of employees being laid off by prime shuttle contractor United Space Alliance (Aerospace DAILY, Feb. 8).
“We want to be very responsible in our closeout of programs, and in the case of the shuttle we do owe a top-up payment for the pension of those workers who have worked there for so many years. And while it’s contractually required, we’re also happy to pay it because it’s important that those workers can transition to other careers with a strong financial footing,” NASA Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Robinson told reporters.
The remaining $117 million for the shuttle program’s proposed budget would be used to prepare the ships for display in museums and transition facilities for new programs.