WASHINGTON — NASA is considering reducing the finances of two of its biggest space telescopes because it faces broader spending discounts for its astrophysics applications.
In an Oct. 13 presentation to the National Academies’ Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, Mark Clampin, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, stated he turned to study unspecified cuts in the running budgets of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope to keep the investment for other priorities inside the division.
The capability cuts, he said, are pushed with the aid of the expectancy that his division will not receive the whole request of nearly $1.56 billion for the monetary year (FY) 2024 because of rules handed in June that cap non-defense discretionary spending for 2024 at 2023 levels, with simplest a 1% increase for 2025.
“We’re working with the expectation that FY24 budgets live on the ’23 levels,” he stated. “That means that we have decided to lessen the budget for missions in prolonged operations, and that is Chandra and Hubble.”
Clampin declined to say how a lot of the budgets of these observatories might be reduced, or have unique impacts on them because of the cuts. He indicated the proposed cuts are still being studied, noting that he become capable of making an “advantageous adjustment” for Chandra within the remaining week.
Chandra and Hubble are the two maximum steeply-priced NASA astrophysics missions to operate after the James Webb Space Telescope.
NASA asked $93.3 million for Hubble and $68.7 million for Chandra in its economic year 2024 finances idea, consistent with beyond years’ budgets. Combined, they represent a touch greater than 10% of the financial year 2024 budget request for NASA astrophysics.
They are also some of the oldest NASA missions, with Hubble released in 1990 and Chandra in 1999. Clampin counseled that changed into a reason for reducing their budgets.
“Chandra has some troubles right now. It’s becoming growing tough to operate,” he stated. Insulation at the spacecraft’s outside is degrading, warming the spacecraft and making operations increasingly tough.
“While Hubble doesn’t have those issues,” he brought up, “it has been working for a long time and it’s miles a large piece of the astrophysics price range.”
Clampin said he began planning two “mini senior opinions” for Chandra and Hubble, in all likelihood in May 2024 after the release of the economic year 2025 price range thought. NASA conducts senior opinions to decide whether and a way to extend the technology to spacecraft that have finished their primary missions.
In the remaining astrophysics senior evaluation in 2022, Chandra and Hubble had been efficaciously exempted, with separate panels analyzing each undertaking to search for efficiencies and other upgrades instead of inspecting if the challenge itself ought to be extended.
“Hubble and Chandra occupy the top tier given their substantial, large impact on astronomy,” the final report of the 2022 senior review stated. “Both missions are operating at extraordinarily high efficiency, and despite the fact that they’re increasingly displaying symptoms of age, each is in all likelihood to hold to generate global-elegance technology during the subsequent 1/2-decade, working in concert with JWST because it starts its flagship role.”
Clampin stated any savings from Chandra and Hubble would go to other astrophysics priorities.
“What we are trying to do, although, is shield destiny missions and developing missions and international partnerships,” he said. That includes the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, smaller Explorer-magnificence astrophysics missions, and NASA’s function on missions led with the aid of other international locations, inclusive of ESA’s LISA gravitational-wave observatory and the Israeli Ultrasat ultraviolet observatory.
He said he also desired to protect early paintings on the Habitable Worlds Observatory, the following flagship astrophysics venture after Roman slated to release within the 2040s.
“It’s absolutely essential to preserve shifting Habitable Worlds Observatory forward,” he said. That includes the first name for proposals to expand key technologies for that huge area telescope and investment groups reading science and technology subjects for it.
He brought that NASA is likewise considering “small reductions” to different working missions, which he did not identify, as well as reductions in generation development spending.
All the one’s plans, he said, had been to shield in opposition to ability sharp cuts in astrophysics. A Senate version of a Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) spending bill for the monetary year 2024 might deliver NASA astrophysics $1.544 billion, short of the request but nevertheless above the $1.51 billion it acquired in 2023.
House appropriators have not begun to publicly launch information about its CJS spending invoice.
“It’s entirely feasible when we get an appropriation, given what you notice on the information each day, we could be even nicely beneath the ’23 level,” he warned the committee. “It’s not a glad outlook obtainable.”