In Rockets We Trust

Congress, which has repeatedly clashed in recent years with the White House over rising budgets and spending priorities, was generous to rocket development programs in the $1.1 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2016. The bill, enacted Dec. 18, saw the president’s requests for NASA’s Space Launch System and an Air Force main engine development program, and raised them by a combined $783 million. Lawmakers took a more jaundiced view of weather satellite programs, particularly on the defense side. What follows is a quick look at some of the key civil and military programs where Capitol Hill didn’t see eye to eye with the White House.

Block 1 configuration of NASA's Space Launch System. Credit: NASA artist's concept.

Block 1 configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System. Credit: NASA artist’s concept.



NASA Space Launch System: Accelerates work on a new upper stage for NASA’s planned heavy-lift exploration rocket.
Total: $2B


NASA Planetary Science: Includes $175 million for a Europa mission, an increase of 4145 million above the president’s request.
Total: $1.63B


Air Force rocket engine development: Accelerates work on an American replacement for the Russian RD-180 rocket engine.
Total: $227M


Air Force Pathfinder 2: Funds the second in a series of experiements exploraing new ways to buy satellite bandwidth from the private sector.
Total: $26M



Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program: Ends the Air Force’s legacy weather satellite program and cancels the launch of the final satellite.
Total: $0.0


NASA Exploration Research and Development: Requires NASA to spend at least $55 million on development of a deep-space habitat module.
Total: $350M


NASA Space Technology: Sets aside one-fifth of the reduced space technology budget for a satellite servicing project known as Restore-L.
Total: $686.5M


Air Force Weather Satellite Follow-on: Funding for the next-generation weather satellite program is “ahead of need,” Congress says.
Total: $56M


NOAA Polar Follow-on: Sets aside $370 million more than lawmakers proposed for the follow-on weather satellites in earlier spending bills.
Total: $37