Sen. Tim Kaine tours NASA Langley Research Center and receives updates on projects Tuesday afternoon.

Newport News Shipbuilding and NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton are feeling the pinch of budget uncertainty in Washington, but Sen. Tim Kaine says Congress might clear that up in the coming weeks.

The Virginia Democrat toured both facilities Tuesday, and at the shipyard brought an influential colleague to share the sights. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., chairs the seapower panel of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Kaine is member of that panel, and they spent four hours at the sprawling yard, looking at aircraft carrier construction and maintenance, submarine programs and the apprentice school, Kaine said.

Overall business has been healthy at the shipyard and its parent, Huntington Ingalls Industries. However, one cloud on the horizon has been the fate of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

The Navy wants to refuel the carrier in 2016, giving it another 25 years of life, but they haven't made a decision because sequestration-level budget cuts may return in 2016. If that happens, the Navy will move to retire the Washington because it won't have the money to refuel it.

That indecision is already hampering the shipyard, which can't begin full preparations for the refueling. The delay threatens the schedule of future projects, which are lined up like dominoes in the coming years.

The Senate may provide some clarity in the coming weeks to speed up the decision process, Kaine said. The Senate Armed Services panel is prepared to take up the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policies and guidelines for how the Defense Department spends its money.

The NDAA could include language specifying the intent to reduce the impact of sequestration in 2016, and that might be enough for the Navy to proceed with the refueling.

The committee hopes to finish the NDAA before Memorial Day, he said.

Tuesday was Kaine's first visit to NASA Langley, where he was bused around the expansive campus for two hours of rapid-fire updates by scientists and engineers eager to tout their work.

"NASA is such a great player for us in Virginia, especially as we're starting to see a growing aerospace and aviation industry, that I wanted to come down and have a sense of what's going on down here," Kaine said.

But among NASA Langley's ongoing missions in a continuing tough economy is justifying its portion of NASA's proposed $17.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2015.

With Kaine, however, its researchers were preaching to the choir.

"I'd like more," Kaine said of the budget allocation, touting his own battles in the Senate to "eliminate or, more realistically, reduce the effects of the sequester."

The sequester enacted by Congress in 2011 mandates automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts every year for a decade. It exempts only a few areas, such as defense spending and Medicare.

"It's the wrong way to do cuts, and a lot of it has fallen upon research and development, whether it's at NASA, whether it's at the NIH or whether it's research … at the DOD," Kaine said. "They've been cut hard, and that's going to hurt us going forward."

Research projects highlighted during the senator's visit include:

•Advanced laser technologies that can create 3-D wind images to better understand and forecast hurricanes or enable robotic landers to select safe landing sites on other planets;

•A new space-based laboratory that can measure the Earth while calibrating with other existing climate measurements, revolutionizing climate research and informing policy decisions. "This is more like a sports car — we're currently flying buses and trucks," climate expert Bruce Wielicki said as he showed the senator the cutting-edge CLARREO instrument. CLARREO stands for Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory.

•Sense-and-avoid technology that would enable UAS — unmanned aerial systems, or drones — to avoid collisions with other moving objects or with stationary objects such as buildings or radio towers.

•A variety of game-changing space technologies, from solar-electric propulsion to advanced radiation protection, entry and landing systems for spacecraft to lightweight materials for space structures.

•Robotic research and development of advanced composite materials for aircraft to help American industry retain their global competitive advantages in aircraft manufacturing.