7 March 2024

Bipartisan Budget Agreement for FY24 NASA Funding

Yaswant Devarakonda American Astronomical Society (AAS)

A summary of the funding levels for NASA (in millions of dollars) for fiscal year 2023 (FY23), the FY24 President's Budget Request (PBR), and in the FY24 bipartisan budget agreement. 


FY23 Enacted 


FY24 Appropriations Bill 

% Change from FY23 






Science Mission Directorate  





Planetary Science 














No Change 

The leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees have released a bipartisan appropriations minibus for the six bills set to expire on 8 March, which includes the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA and NSF. The minibus maintains the overall budget caps set in last year’s Fiscal Responsibility Act and is likely to pass both chambers before the 8 March deadline. The overall funding for NASA is much lower than what was appropriated in FY23 and what was requested in the President’s Budget Request (PBR) for FY23. The 2% cut from FY23 for NASA is roughly in line with the cuts to other CJS agencies such as the Department of Commerce (-2%) and the Department of Justice (-3%).

The language of the minibus sets the topline numbers for the NASA divisions and provides specific directions for key NASA programs within each division. The bill adopts the language from the initial Senate bill for other NASA programs such as Hubble and JWST. Barring any emergency supplemental funding bills, costs increase in programs must be offset with cuts to other programs within the division. Below we take a look at some of those key programs in NASA’s Planetary Science, Astrophysics, and Heliophysics divisions.

Planetary Science

Mars Sample Return (MSR) has had a tumultuous year, to say the least. The PBR requested $949 million for the program in FY24 and the initial House appropriations bill would have funded MSR at that level, however, the Senate bill only allocated $300 million and threatened to cancel the mission if NASA was unable to keep the total mission cost under $5.3 billion. In September an Independent Review Board (IRB) released a report on the program, finding that the mission could not launch on budget or schedule. They expected that a “…2030 LRD (Launch Readiness Date) … is estimated to require ~$8.0-9.6B, with funding in excess of $1B per year to be required for three or more years starting in 2025.” In response to this report, NASA has been analyzing alternative plans for the mission. This may include a new goal of simply getting the samples to Martian orbit and leaving the retrieval for a future mission. In February JPL decided to lay off 530 full-time employees and 40 contract workers, which was on top of an earlier reduction of 100 contract workers. They cited the budget uncertainty as a key cause and made the cuts in anticipation of receiving the lower $300 million amount that was proposed by the Senate. This decision drew condemnation from a bipartisan delegation of representatives and senators from California. As part of the latest bill, MSR is set to receive at least $300 million but could receive as much as the requested $949 million pending NASA’s response to the IRB report. The bill rejects the adoption of the Senate language on canceling the program if the lifetime costs exceed $5.3 billion. The bill also directs NASA to cease any workforce reductions in the program until the new plan for the program is released and NASA must notify Congress of any planned workforce reductions at least 30 days in advance. Due to the cap on the Planetary Science Division budget, however, any increases in MSR funding due to reformulation will need to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the division unless Congress passes a supplemental funding bill.

Dragonfly, the New Frontiers-class mission to send a robotic helicopter to Titan, will receive a minimum of $360 million, greater than the requested $327.7 million. VERITAS, a Discovery-class mission to send an orbiter to Venus, was originally delayed by NASA by three years due to workforce shortages at JPL which caused delays in other priority projects. While the budget agreement does not direct specific funds toward VERITAS, it does direct NASA to submit a funding plan in the FY25 budget request that will allow for a launch by the end of the decade.


The only new directed funding for Astrophysics is $10 million for the Habitable Worlds Observatory (HWO), which includes plans for NASA to establish a project office at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Both HWO and Dragonfly received significant support from a delegation of representatives and senators from Maryland and Virginia in a recent letter to the appropriations chairs. The overall funding level for the Astrophysics Division is $20 million higher than in FY23; it is unclear in the bill’s language where the extra funding will go after HWO receives its $10 million, but the funding will likely be spread out among other Astrophysics projects.


The FY24 request for Heliophysics was $751 million, lower than the FY23 enacted budget of $805 million due to NASA's decision to delay the Geospace Dynamics Constellation (GDC), a decadal priority mission. The budget agreement restores the FY23 funding levels for FY24, and while it does not direct specific funds towards GDC it does instruct NASA to submit a plan within 180 days of the bill passing for an end-of-decade launch.

Correction: An earlier version did not mention the adoption of the language in the Senate bill for programs not specifically mentioned in this bill. 

Related Post