11 June 2021

President's FY 2022 Budget Request

Kelsie Krafton

Kelsie Krafton Space Studies Board of the NAS

President's FY 2021 Budget Request On 9 April the Biden administration released a "skinny" (less detailed, just an overview) version of the annual President's Budget Request (PBR), marking the official start of the fiscal year (FY) 2022 appropriations process. The full PBR was only just released on 28 May and the agencies released their congressional budget justifications in the days that followed. These documents are sent to Congress as part of the administration's budget proposal. The PBR is generally due to Congress on or before the first Monday in February each year, which would have been 1 February 2021, but it is recently fairly normal for PBRs to be delayed. In a dramatic reversal from the previous administration, the Biden administration is proposing overall increases for the science agencies.

It's useful to talk about the numbers in the PBR as they compare to the previous year's enacted budget. The budget for FY 2021 was enacted in December 2020, and contains many of the funding levels. However, specific line items' final funding is not known until the agencies publish their operating (spending) plans. NASA's FY 2021 spending plan has been published. The National Science Foundation's (NSF's) FY 2020 spending is embedded in their FY 2022 budget request. The Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Science spending is also embedded in the current year's budget request, but includes FY 2020's spending as well. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)  presents the same level of information as the DOE's Office of Science. So we cannot compare every budget line to its FY 2021 spending level, sometimes we must use FY 2020 numbers.


FY 2022 Summary Budget Brief
FY 2022 Congressional Justification

NASA receives a 6.6% increase to the agency top line from FY 2021, and the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is getting a slightly larger 8.6% increase. NASA's budget rollout materials focus on addressing the climate crisis and promoting equity. The bulk of the increase to SMD goes to Earth Science and Planetary Science for Mars Sample Return, Dragonfly, and Planetary Defense. A large chunk of funding was freed up by the winding down construction of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The table below holds the numbers for the agency lines most relevant to the astronomical sciences and is followed by some highlights of the major initiatives, reorganizations, and changes in this budget proposal.

Account FY 2021 FY 2022 Request Request Delta ($) Request Delta (%)
NASA $23,271.3 $24,801.5 +$1,530.2 +6.6%
Science Mission Directorate $7,300.8 $7,931.4 +$630.6 +8.6%
Planetary Science $2,699.8 $3,200.0 +$500.2 +18.5%
Research $304.1 $306.9 +$2.8 +0.9%
Planetary Defense $151.0 $197.2 +$46.2 +30.6%
Lunar Discovery and Exploration $443.5 $497.3 +$53.8 +12.1%
Discovery $451.3 $364.8 -$86.5 -19.2%
New Frontiers $160.0 $217.7 +$111.7 +69.8%
Mars Exploration $334.8 $267.8 -$67.0 -20.0%
Outer Planets and Ocean Worlds $462.5 $494.8 +$32.3 +7.0%
Radioisotope Power $146.3 $146.4 +$0.1 +0.1%
Astrophysics w/o JWST $1,356.2 $1,400.2 +$44.0 +3.2%
Research $249.3 $285.5 +$36.2 +14.5%
Cosmic Origins (w/o JWST) $203.8 $115.0 -$88.8 -43.6%
Physics of the Cosmos $146.4 $156.0 +$9.6 +6.6%
Exoplanet Exploration $552.4 $543.3 -$9.1 -1.6%
Astrophysics Explorer $204.4 $300.4 +$96.0 +47.0%
JWST $414.7 $175.4 -$239.3 -57.7%
Heliophysics $751.0 $796.7 +$45.7 +6.1%
Research $280.8 $210.6 -$70.2 -25.0%
Living with a Star $148.2 $115.3 -$32.9 -22.2%
Solar Terrestrial Probes $132.2 $253.3 +$121.1 +91.6%
Heliophysics Explorer $170.7 $189.2 +$18.5 +10.8%
Office of STEM Engagement $127.0 $147.0 +$20.0 +15.7%

* All values are in millions of dollars. 


  • The FY 2022 proposal would increase the Astrophysics Division top line by 3%, but when including the JWST it becomes an 11% decrease.
  • JWST: The project conducted a scheduled risk assessment in June 2020, which resulted in an Agency change to the Launch Readiness Date from March 2021 to October 2021. COVID-19 impacts, additional work, and appropriate schedule margin requirements made this change necessary. There is no change to the life cycle cost, and the decreases we are seeing are the normal progression of the funding profile.
  • Research: The budget request increases funding for Astrophysics research to enhance NASA's engagement with minority-serving institutions and to address the priorities expressed in the 2021 Astrophysics Decadal Survey recommendations. The budget supports an increase for Science Activation to combat social inequities. The project will achieve this through competitive selections, and augmented collaborations for rural, indigenous, and other underserved areas; citizen science projects; and plans to use lessons learned from past celestial and other milestone events to engage underserved communities. Compared to FY 2021, Research & Analysis is increased by 18%, the Balloon Project by 2%, and Science Activation by 22%. 
  • Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA): This budget proposes the termination of the SOFIA mission. The PBR says "SOFIA’s annual operations budget is the second-most expensive operating mission in the Astrophysics Division (after the Hubble Space Telescope), yet the science productivity of the mission is not on par with other large science missions. Dramatic improvement in SOFIA's scientific productivity is not expected. The nature of the program, which relies on observations using an expensive platform with expensive consumables, results in low cost efficiency compared to most observatories. Additionally, the James Webb Space Telescope, planned to launch in 2021, will provide data at mid-infrared wavelengths, partially mitigating the absence of SOFIA." This makes up the bulk of the 44% cut to Cosmic Origins relative to FY 2021, slightly offset by 5% increase to the Hubble budget. 
  • Roman: This budget funds the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, the top priority large mission of the 2010 "New Worlds, New Horizons, Astronomy and Astrophysics" decadal survey. This is a welcome turnaround from previous PBRs. NASA's estimates for cost and schedule for Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope have increased due to COVID-19 impacts. NASA continues to assess these impacts, and cost changes are being evaluated. NASA will complete its assessment of COVID-19 impacts on mission cost and schedule and complete the project replan in the summer of 2021. Overall, Exoplanet Exploration receives a 2% decrease from FY 2021. 
  • Explorer Program: The Explorers Futures budget enables NASA to respond to recommendations from the next astrophysics decadal survey, such as a probe class mission. This makes up the bulk of the 47% increase to the Explorer Program over FY 2021, which is further augmented by a 31% increase to SPHEREx. 

Planetary Science

  • Research: The PBR cuts Research and Analysis (R&A) by 0.6%, saying, "This budget request proposes additional funding for investments focused on Planetary Science's core Research and Analysis program including implementation of a new access to facilities program element with a proactive emphasis on enabling more diverse groups of underrepresented researchers to have access in preparation for analyses of new samples from asteroids, the Moon, and Mars."
  • Planetary Defense: The Budget increases funding to support a new Near-Earth Objects Surveyor spaceflight mission, which is in formulation. Due to technical issues associated with the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Opticalnavigation (DRACO) rework, Roll-Out Solar Arrays (ROSA) delivery, and COVID-19, Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will need additional funding. A replan is underway to accommodate COVID-19 impacts, the DRACO rework, and the ROSA delayed delivery. NASA expects this replan to be complete by this summer and offsets will be funded from within the Planetary Science Division. In the meantime, the PBR cuts funding for DART by 83%. 
  • Lunar Discovery and Exploration: There are three new projects in this budget. The Development and Advancement of Lunar Instrumentation and Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon activities are instrument selection elements previously executed within the Lunar Instruments and Lunar Future projects. Lunar Trailblazer is a new project in development selected as a SmallSat in the recent Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration call in the Discovery Program. 
    • Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER): There is an 8% increase in the VIPER mission budget profile to support the project requirements identified at its confirmation into the development phase. 
    • Discovery: The PBR states "remaining funding is enough to select up to two missions from the current Announcement of Opportunity with planned launches no earlier than 2028. Selected Discovery missions will be in Phase B in FY 2022 after down-select in FY 2021." This is accompanied by a 19% cut to Discovery. 
    • Lucy: NASA rephased some funding in FY 2021 and FY 2022 based on mission needs and added funds to mission student collaboration for increased support during operations. Lucy is cut by 46% from FY 2021. 
    • Psyche: Compared to FY 2021, Psyche is cut by 18%. 
  • New Frontiers: The PBR supports a launch readiness date of no earlier than June 2027 for Dragonfly. The date was changed due to COVID-19 impacts and other priorities within the Planetary Science Division and launching later will not affect Dragonfly’s science return or capabilities once at Titan. The New Frontiers 5 Announcement of Opportunity will be delayed by two years to the first quarter of FY 2025 due to other missions being in peak development and COVID-related challenges in the broader Planetary Science Division portfolio. 
  • Mars Exploration and Sample Return: This budget transfers the Mars Sample Return (MSR) budget from Mars Future to a separate program, resulting in a 165% increase to MSR over FY 2021. It establishes a separate project, Mars Ice Mapper, an international cooperation mission that will study and profile the near-surface (3-15 meters) water ice. The budget for the Mars Rover 2020 mission incorporates cost growth in the Phase E prime mission operations due to delayed surface operations capability development and COVID-19 inefficiencies. It includes a budget for extended operations from 2024 to 2026.
  • Outer Planets and Ocean Worlds: This budget request includes $5 million per year within the Icy Satellites Surface Technology project for technology efforts in support of a future Ocean Worlds lander mission. The PBR states that the "long-term goal of Ocean Worlds exploration is accessing the deep subsurface and ultimately the oceans themselves." NASA has identified a small number of technologies to enable this exploration, but they require sustained investment to develop.
    • Europa: The Europa Clipper project's established baseline lifecycle cost (LCC) estimate was set at $4.25 billion in August 2019. The FY 2022 budget request adds $47 million to the Europa Clipper LCC to mitigate COVID-19 impacts. Europa Clipper will launch on a Commercial Launch Vehicle (CLV) utilizing a Mars-Earth Gravity Assist trajectory by November 2024. The procurement of the CLV is currently in process, consistent with the FY 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L.160-260). A project replan is underway to accommodate COVID-19 impacts, as well as assembly, test, and launch operations requirements, the updated schedule plan, and Phase E costs. NASA expects this replan and CLV selection to be complete in early CY 2022. 
  • Radioisotope Power: This budget transitions the RPS Next Gen Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) work to the General Purpose Heat Source — Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (GPHS-RTG, Cassini-type) production line for future missions. The projected 2028 Next Gen RTG performance was not significantly higher than that of the GPHS-RTG, and NASA determined the cost and schedule risk due to additional technology development was sufficiently high to justify not providing further investment at this time.


  • Research: Funding associated with technology development activities, including CubeSats and Heliophysics Technology and Instrument Development for Science (HTIDeS), have been moved to the new Heliophysics Technology Program. This accounts for $9 million of the $70 million cuts to research from FY 2021: R&A is cut by 32%, Sounding Rockets is cut by 18%, Research Range is cut by 17%, and Other Missions and Data Analysis is cut by 27%.  
  • Living with a Star (LWS): The Budget supports formulation of a new spaceflight mission, Geospace Dynamics Constellation, to conduct a coordinated, global study of the Earth's upper atmosphere. The budget also supports formulation of the Heliophysics Environmental and Radiation Measurement Experiment (HERMES) to investigate the causes of space-weather variability as driven by the Sun and modulated by the magnetosphere. HERMES will be a payload on the lunar Gateway and will contribute to a fundamental goal of LWS to advance the science of space weather forecasting to help prevent damage to spacecraft, communications and navigation systems, and power grids, and to support astronaut safety.
  • Solar Terrestrial Probes: NASA selected two SmallSat missions from the STP Missions of Opportunity announcement to share a ride to space in 2025 with Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP). The project entered its preliminary design and technology completion phase (Phase B) in January 2020 and is now included as a separate section in this budget request. The bulk of the increase to STP comes from a 156% increase to IMAP. The Global Lyman-alpha Imagers of the Dynamic Exosphere mission will help researchers understand the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere, the exosphere, where it touches space. The Solar Cruiser technology demonstration mission will investigate the use of solar photons for propulsion in space. Funding for Solar Cruiser has been transferred to the Heliophysics Technology Program. The budget request includes new projects for recent mission selections: SunRISE, Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer, and Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope. Funding for the newly selected Magnetometers for Innovation and Capability (MAGIC) technology demonstration is moved to the new Heliophysics Technology Program.  
  • Heliophysics Technology: The Heliophysics Technology Program is proposed as a new program in the FY 2022 budget. The program includes elements transferred from other programs, including Heliophysics Technology and Instrument Development for Science (HTIDeS) and Heliophysics Flight Opportunities Studies (HFOS; currently funded out of Heliophysics Research), as well as the Solar Cruiser technology demonstration mission of opportunity (currently funded under the Solar Terrestrial Probe program) and MAGIC technology demonstration mission, a technology demonstration rideshare project transferred from the Explorers program. 


FY 2022 Congressional Justification
Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) FY 2022 Budget

Overall, NSF received a 19% increase. This trickled down to an 18% increase in NSF's Research & Related Activities. The Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST) was increased by 6%. The PBR funds investments in the administration’s research and development (R&D) priority areas of equity and climate science. The table below holds the numbers for the agency lines most relevant to the astronomical sciences and is followed by some highlights of the major initiatives, reorganizations, and changes in this budget proposal.

Account FY 2020 FY 2021 FY 2022 Request Request Delta ($) Request Delta (%)
National Science Foundation $8,345.9 $8,683.8 $10,341.8 +$1,658.0 +19.1%
Research & Related Activities (R&RA) $6,602.7 $6,909.8 $8,139.7 +$1,229.9 +17.8%
Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate (MPS) $1,530.1   $1,690.7 +$160.6 +10.5%
Astronomical Sciences Division (AST) $279.1 $277.1 $294.1 +$17.0 +6.1%
Mid-scale Infrastructure $23.3 $20.8 $19.5 -$1.3 -6.3%
Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure   $76.3 $76.3 +$0.0 +0.0%
Major Research Equipment & Facility Construction (MREFC) $154.8 $241.0 $249.0 +$8.0 +3.3%
Vera C. Rubin Observatory $46.4 $40.8 $40.8 +$0.0 +0.0%

* All values are in millions of dollars. Unfortunately, NSF does not publish enacted current year (FY 2020) funding levels for most programs despite a congressionally-approved operating plan, so we’re left to compare to FY 2019 in many cases. 

MPS Funding for Major Facilities

  • Arecibo Observatory: The FY 2022 request is $26.0 million. Arecibo Operation & Management (O&M) is jointly supported by AST and Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences. Additional funding was provided in FY 2021 for cleanup activities following the collapse of the 305-meter telescope platform, including debris removal, environmental mitigation, and historical and cultural preservation. Cleanup and recovery activities are expected to continue in FY 2022 as efforts to restore Arecibo’s scientific, cultural, and educational programs ramp up based on recommendations from the June 2021 workshop and other input from the scientific and Puerto Rican communities. 
  • Green Bank Observatory (GBO): NSF conducted a community-based review of the AST portfolio in response to a recommendation of the 2010 Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics. In 2012, that portfolio review recommended divestment of GBO in order to sustain balance in the AST program. NSF subsequently undertook a full environmental review of options for the future of GBO, culminating in NSF’s July 2019 Record of Decision (ROD) to pursue continued GBO operations with reduced NSF funding and increased partner contributions. Following the ROD, NSF awarded a new cooperative agreement to Associated Universities, Inc. for GBO O&M for the five-year period FY 2020-FY 2024. While GBO’s total annual O&M costs are projected to remain stable to ensure continued effective operation of the facility, NSF’s share should decrease as new viable funding partnerships and collaborations are developed. The FY 2022 Request for GBO is $9.12 million and encompasses support for direct telescope operations at GBO, including maintenance, infrastructure upgrades, and telescope management, as well as funds allocated for education and public outreach.
  • National Solar Observatory (NSO): NSF identified a total planning budget of roughly $202 million for NSO O&M over the 10-year term of the renewed NSO cooperative agreement, 1 June 2015 – 30 September 2024. This includes the operation cost of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) but does not include the cost of DKIST construction. This also does not include the costs associated with the transition of former NSO facilities on Sacramento Peak and Kitt Peak. The budget projections for FY 2022 and beyond have been slightly increased from prior projections because of NSO’s comprehensive midterm review, which identified potential budget shortfalls over the remainder of the current award period.
  • Vera C. Rubin Observatory: Current projections for a potential re-baselining of the construction project include an additional ~$50 million for other potential impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and are based on the estimated cost of a projected 16-month schedule delay. This would also move the final year of MREFC funding to FY 2023. A rigorous re-baseline, including a joint agency-led review by a panel of external experts, of the Rubin Observatory Construction Project is expected in FY 2021, now that site construction has resumed. The re-baseline process will result in a revised estimate of the Total Project Costs (TPC).


  • Daniel K. Inouye Telescope: No funding is requested in FY 2022 for construction of the Inouye telescope. The planned 11-year MREFC funding profile for the Inouye telescope construction represented a National Science Board-authorized TPC of $344.13 million, with FY 2019 as the final year of funding. The award authorization was then increased by $9.40 million (to $353.53 million) in FY 2020, and again by $9.50 million (to $363.03 million) in FY 2021 to allow for NSF-held management reserve for the construction project. This reserve is being awarded to the project in accordance with NSF procedures only as specific costs related to the impacts of COVID-19 are realized. Completion of construction atop Haleakalā on Maui, Hawai‘i, originally scheduled before the end of FY 2020, is delayed by the impacts of COVID-19 into the fall of 2021.
  • Vera C. Rubin Observatory: The FY 2022 Request is the best current estimate of the project need in FY 2022 given the anticipated approximately 16-month-delay and the authorization of management reserve in FY 2020; it is based on a preliminary estimate of overall project need increasing to $533.39 million. The project is currently being re-baselined to account for the impacts of COVID-19, and NSF anticipates presenting the National Science Board with a recommendation for authorization of a new TPC by the end of CY 2021. 

Education & Human Resources (EHR)

NSF's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) will be fully funded in EHR in FY 2022 at a total funding level of $318.52 million to support 2,500 new fellowships with a cost of education allowance of $12,000 and a stipend of $34,000 per fellow. The GRFP program will continue to align awards with Administration priorities, including climate, clean energy, and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum. In addition, the Division of Graduate Education will continue efforts to ensure that GRFP recipients reflect the diversity of the STEM graduate student population and to improve professional development opportunities for program participants.

DOE Office of Science and NIST

DOE Office of Science FY 2022 Congressional Justification
NIST FY 2022 Congressional Justification

Overall, the DOE Office of Science (SC) m was increased by 6% "to implement the Administration’s objectives in order to advance bold, transformational leaps in US science and technology (S&T), build a diverse workforce of the future, and ensure America remains the global S&T leader for generations to come. The FY 2022 Request supports a balanced research portfolio of basic scientific research probing some of the most fundamental questions in areas such as: high energy, nuclear, and plasma physics; materials and chemistry; biological and environmental systems; applied mathematics; next generation high-performance computing and simulation capabilities; isotope production; and basic research to advance new energy technologies." "SC initiates a new activity, Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce, for targeted efforts to increase participation and retention of underrepresented groups in SC research activities." "The Request will also support the construction of new and upgraded user facilities and the R&D necessary for future facilities to continue to provide world class research capabilities to US researchers."

This includes a 1% increase in the High Energy Physics program, which contains the Cosmic Frontier program. "The FY 2022 Request [...] focuses resources toward the highest priorities in fundamental research, operation and maintenance of scientific user facilities, facility upgrades, and projects identified in the P5 report." Most funding for the astronomical sciences comes from Cosmic Frontier, which was cut by 1% in the Request. The Request will increase support for research efforts for data collection and analysis on new experiments, efforts on CMB-S4, and scientific planning for future experiments, while support for completed experiments will ramp down. Support will continue for commissioning and preoperations activities of Vera C. Rubin Observatory and the Dark Energy Science Collaboration and the commissioning of SuperCDMSSNOLAB will complete. The Request will prioritize design activities for CMB-S4. 

Overall, NIST has a top-line increase of 45%. The Request increases NIST’s Scientific and Technical Research and Services by 16%, adding 164 staff positions.  

The tables below hold the numbers for each agency with the lines most relevant to the astronomical sciences and is followed by some highlights of the major initiatives, reorganizations, and changes in this budget proposal.

Account FY 2021 FY 2022 Request Request Delta ($) Request Delta (%)
DOE Office of Science $7,026.0 $7,440.0 +$414.0 +5.9%
High Energy Physics $1,046.0 $1,061.0 +$15.0 +1.4%
Cosmic Frontier $97.6 $96.5 -$1.1 -1.1%


Account FY 2021 FY 2022 Request Request Delta ($) Request Delta (%)
NIST $1,034.5 $1,497.2 +$462.3 +44.7%
Scientific and Technical Research and Services $788.0 $915.6 +$127.6 +16.2%

* All values are in millions of dollars. 

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