What the proposed NASA FY17 budget means for Marshall Space Flight Center

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REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (WHNT) -The president's FY17 budget request is out, and it allots $19 billion for NASA.

Marshall Space Flight Center Director Todd May says of the number, "This is a tremendous signal of national support."

The number is a touch under the active budget of $19.3 billion, but FY15 only had $18 billion allocated.

As for Huntsville specifically, May says, "Marshall's proposed budget is roughly $2.1 billion, which is consistent with the administration's commitment over the last several years."

Of course, that supports the SLS mission, but it keeps things moving back on the ground too.

"This last year, you saw 4220 go up just behind us," May says of a Marshall building, "And we now have a new building that will break ground this year, 4221, a new administration building. But you're also seeing the skyline change. We have a test facility for this hydrogen tank on the core of the rocket that's over 21-stories tall."

Good thing too, because May notes, "Pretty soon, this year, you're going to see major pieces of the rocket start showing up here in Huntsville."

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Of course, that's not to assume that the president's budget proposal will pass. May accepts, "The budget process is just that. It's a process, and we see it happen every year."

In theory, Congress would debate the president's budget, then amend, then approve.

"In practice, it's a much more arduous path," May admits, "I'll tell you at the center, what we like to do is ignore a lot of that and do what we do, which is to deliver on our commitments."

The folks who build rockets, frankly, have a difficult enough task. They try to keep scientists operating independent of budget concerns.

Of course it's important to note this budget proposal does not dictate current funds.

"The way the process works," May elaborates, "We're in a year right now, where we actually have the money we need to progress forward while the budget is being worked out for FY17."

A huge chunk of SLS development has happened under that cloud.

"We've kind of seen this played out now four years in a row, and the team is pretty robust to it. We have our plans laid out. We have contingency plans if things were to go a different way," says May.

Until then, they'll keep to what they know best.

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