In a bipartisan unanimous vote the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has approved a new NASA budget and space plan. If this bill passes the Senate and House vote it will set the future for US space efforts.
Here are some details:
The Space Shuttle is funded till the end of the 2011 fiscal year with NASA authorized an extra mission if it passes safety reviews.
The International Space Station is authorized to 2020.
NASA is to develop a heavy lift system using existing Shuttle technology and facilities. NASA is also to continue development of the Orion capsule and have both the heavy lift and Orion ready for launch on December 31 2016.
Money to develop systems for manned flight beyond LEO (low earth orbit) are authorized and funded any system is to use the Orion capsule.
The commercial cargo program to resupply the ISS is to continue as planned.
A commercial manned capability will continue to be funded but NASA can not sign any contract for manned commercial flight in 2011. A full commercial program can begin in 2012.
More money is to be given for robotic planetary exploration.
This bill seem to me to be an attempt to save jobs in Texas, Florida and Utah since the Shuttle program will not be shutdown as in the Obama plan. It also seems to be an attempt to slow SpaceX down so Boeing and Lockheed can develop there own manned capsules to compete for a contract. If NASA was allowed to contract for manned flight in 2011 only SpaceX has a system that would be ready for testing since there Dragon cargo ship is dual purpose because it can be configured for manned and unmanned flights to the ISS.