With NASA's fiscal year 2010 budget delayed as President Barack Obama's administration came up to speed on its funding plans, it was uncertain what the complexion of the projects and allocations for the agency would look like.
The suspense ended in May with the release of the president's budgets, which reflected a 5 percent increase in NASA's budget - up $904 million- to $18.69 billion from the fiscal year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act. That figure does not include $1 billion in new funding included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that was approved earlier this year.
Dryden's budget will see an 8 percent growth from former President George Bush's 2009 fiscal year budget request of $253.1 million, to $272.6 million in the 2010 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The actual budget figures for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 are expected to increase as recovery act funds are released and distributed to the center, said Acting Center Director David McBride.
McBride, Associate Director for Management Gwen Young, and Joel Sitz, deputy associate director for programs, attended a media briefing shortly after the budget request was released.
"NASA Aeronautics is seeing a strong level of support in the White House and Congress," McBride said.
Employment at the main Dryden campus and the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale is expected to remain steady at 550 government employees in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, with about 650 contract workers.
The biggest boost for the center is $23.9 million in fiscal year 2010, from $16.1 million in 2009 for institutional investments. Included in that figure is construction of a consolidated information technology center to replace antiquated equipment and facilities developed in the 1980s, Young said.
Also planned are replacement of the 35-year-old electrical substation that has become unreliable and a major overhaul of the flight loads lab. The lab, used for structures and thermal testing, is slated for a makeover, including the replacement of fire protection and electrical systems, she added.
Dryden has a diversified portfolio that includes NASA's four mission directorates and aeronautics remains a valued part of that work.
The Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, often the recipient of flat and declining budgets, will see a 20 percent increase from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2010 with an allocation of $507 million. Dryden's portion of the ARMD funding also increases from $60 million in fiscal year 2009 to $60.8 million in fiscal year 2010.
About $62.4 million in 2010 will be earmarked for establishing a "green aviation initiative" called the Integrated Systems Research Program. The idea, which will be seeded with Recovery Act funding, is to research technologies to simultaneously reduce fuel burn, noise and emissions. Work such as the X-48B blended wing body is one of several ways in which Dryden might be asked to contribute to that effort, Sitz said.
Dryden's Science Mission Directorate work will continue to be a strong element of the center's portfolio at $53.8 million, a decrease of $16.5 million from the fiscal year 2009 budget. While it appears there is a large decrease in the budget, it is anticipated that much of that decrease will be stabilized when Recovery Act funds become available, McBride added.
Included in this funding category are Earth science missions such as climate study and support for Dryden's DC-8 and ER-2 missions around the world. Also, the G-III is involved in a two-moth climate study science mission in Iceland and Greenland.
"Where else can you live in the desert and study icebergs?" Sitz asked.
In addition, the Global Hawk is intended to make its first flight this summer and its first NASA research mission later this year.
Study of the cosmos will be another mission based from the DAOF when the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is complete. The modified NASA 747SP will carry a 2.5-meter telescope above the clouds and water vapor in the atmosphere that can obscure earthbound infrared telescopes.
Flight tests of the SOFIA with the door covering the telescope open are anticipated later this year. That is one of the key milestones before the aircraft will be ready to begin its missions, McBride explained.
Concerning Dryden's work for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, preparations are ongoing for the Orion flight test crew module, also known as Pad Abort-1. A test flight is scheduled for later this year from White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The Dryden 2010 budget for Exploration Systems work mirrors the allocation in fiscal year 2009 at $39.8 million.
An independent review of the larger Constellation program, of which the Orion is a part, will begin this summer by a blue-ribbon panel that will issue its findings in a report called the "Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans." The panel's objective is to ensure that the manned spaceflight program remains innovative, affordable and safe following the space shuttle's retirement. Former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine, who headed a similar effort for President Bush, was selected to head the new panel.
Dryden's space operations budget, which covers such items as the International Space Station and space shuttle support, is expected to increase from $4 million in fiscal year 2009 to $5.1 million in fiscal year 2010. The increases are mostly due to additional space shuttle landing operations, severance and retention.
Center management and operations will grow from $62.8 million in fiscal year 2009 to $64 million in fiscal year 2010. Higher utilities, maintenance, restoration of deferred activities shorted in the fiscal 2009 budget and investments for the repair the electrical distribution system are included in those figures.
In addition, the agency management and operation budget will increase from $10.4 million in fiscal year 2009 to $10.6 million in fiscal year 2010.
Education funding will increase slightly from $14.7 million in fiscal year 2009 to $14.8 million in fiscal year 2010. That allocation is mostly comprised of management of the NASA-wide University Research Centers project.
The NASA budget and supporting information are available online at: http://www.nasa.gov/budget
By Jay Levine