NASA Extends SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Commercial Crew Agreements By 7 Months

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NASA has signed amendments to their commercial crew agreements with SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation that give each company an additional seven months to complete flight test milestones on their space vehicles. The deadline is now March 31, 2015, instead of Aug. 31.

The SpaceX amendment will allow additional time for the company to complete an in-flight abort test with its Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 booster. The test, which is worth $30 million, is the final of 14 milestones in the current commercial crew round of funding. It was originally scheduled to be completed in April 2014.

Sierra Nevada is being given an extension to no later than March 31, 2015, to conduct additional drop tests of its Dream Chaser lifting body vehicle. The milestone, which is worth $8 million, was originally scheduled for completion in April 2013.

The company conducted an initial drop test of Dream Chaser at Edwards Air Force Base in California in October 2013. The approach went as planned, but the vehicle skidded off the runway after a failure of one of the two main landing gear to deploy properly.

This is the second time NASA has extended the current round of commercial crew funding. The space agency earlier extended the round from May to August 2014 while adding funding for additional milestones for Sierra Nevada and Boeing, which is the third company competing in the program.

NASA has said that it hopes to make a decision on the next round of funding in August. That decision could eliminate one or two of the competing companies.