(CNN) — NASA has released its proposed 2016 budget request of $18.5 billion, an increase of $500 million over the agency’s approved budget this year.
Standing in front of three prototype spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Station in Florida, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Monday laid out the agency’s accomplishments.
“These are tangible examples of our progress,” Bolden said, referring to Boeing’s CST-100 mock-up and two test vehicles already flown in space — Lockheed Martin’s Orion and SpaceX Dragon crew capsules.
The proposal asks Congress to increase funding for the commercial spaceflight program by 50%, from $800 million to $1.2 billion. If not approved and the commercial contractors meet their deadlines — NASA might not meet its deadline of launching astronauts from the United States by late 2017, said David Radzanowski, NASA’s chief financial officer.
Last year NASA awarded Boeing and SpaceX contracts for returning American astronauts into low-Earth orbit and to the International Space Station. Since the space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA has paid Russia to transport its astronauts to the space station on Soyuz rockets.
In its annual report, released Friday, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel said it could not review the certification process in the Commercial Crew Program due to a lack of transparency and information.
The independent safety panel has been required to submit an annual report to Congress since the shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. The report can be influential toward congressional approval of NASA’s budget.
“We are currently providing the information to the panel,” Bolden told CNN following his speech in Florida.
The administrator said President Barack Obama’s $18.5 billion budget for NASA is a vote of confidence in NASA’s ambitious exploration programs.