Senate Appropriators, who last week concluded their mark of the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2011 spending request, included no funding for the F136 engine for the F-35 strike fighter. Unless there is an amendment introduced when the Senate debates the bill prior to voting on it, the fate of the F136 likely will be an issue when House and Senate defense appropriators get together in conference to hash out the final version of the spending bill. The House lawmakers added $450 million in their own mark up in July to keep the F136 alive, going against the wishes of the Administration, which wants to kill the F136. A similar conference scenario is likely on the authorization side, where the House included $485 million for the F136, while Senate authorizers added no money for it. (See also Hollow Veto Threat.)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.