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.

  • getitdoneinspace

    Elon had stated during Q&A following the Dragon V2 unveiling that the in-flight launch abort test would be next year. With this extension we now can infer that it will be very early next year (before 3/31 hopefully). A scale showing progress toward a completed vehicle of the 3 competitors would be interesting to view. Doug, is there a generic list of milestones toward completing a space craft where you could compare SpaceX, Boeing, and SNC? I know Boeing’s milestones were less down the path but I do not have a good sense of how much less.

  • Saturn13

    It looks likes they are all waiting to see if they get picked. No need to do work otherwise. Cancel or delay to the most cost effective time. Boeing says they will start building soon. Soon after they get the contract I say. I wondered what SpaceX was going to do all next year, until the flight at the end. It will come down to the last days of ’17. They always use the time available. Never finish early. SpaceX says they will finish a year ahead. There record shows slip and there is no reason to think different this time.
    Come on NASA come out with the awards.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    The PR machines keep cranking out “news” that sounds like progress but nobody has shown us any flight hardware in quite awhile. I’m especially disappointed with SNC which keeps announcing strategic partnerships while they’ve only managed one drop test from a helicopter (and they broke their bird on that one.) If the commercial crew contenders don’t start making more progress soon, I think there is a real possibility the Congress may mandate that NASA astronauts fly on Orion (with or without SLS) seeing as how it should also be ready by 2017.

  • windbourne

    SNC is building their next next prototype right now.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Interesting. When is Boeing scheduled to do a pad abort test & an inflight abort test? Seems overkill on SpaceX’s part when the others only do pad abort testing. But, then, many established aerospace officials said that it was almost impossible to soft land a first stage from an actual launch.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Would this be something that is going to fly into space or just a replacement test article to complete the NASA-mandated drop tests? It its the latter, why not just fix their last bird and get on with the tests?

  • windbourne

    The engineer told me that is was further drop testing. Did not know the guy. It was in passing. I.e. no more info, until I run into another SNC engineer ( plenty around here though ) or a guy that I have not talked to in a year or so.

  • Douglas Messier

    Working on it. Look for something on Monday.

  • Douglas Messier

    Next round of funding, if Boeing is selected.

  • Douglas Messier

    NASA announcement on next funding round is set for August.

    Elon promises a lot of things. He’s usually late in delivering things. I expect that end of 2016 for a commercial flight probably means middle of 2017. But, he could surprise us.

  • Douglas Messier

    The drop test they did was a milestone from the previous CCDev 2 round of funding. They’ve still got at least 1 more drop test to do. And that’s running about 2 years behind the schedule they submitted for CCiCAP.

    They never released the video of the landing where the gear didn’t deploy. Mark Sirangelo did his best to downplay the failure, but the report I received from someone who saw it says it looked a lot like the M2F2 crash they used for the opening of “The Six Million Dollar Man.” I wouldn’t have released that video, either.

  • windbourne

    Been thinking about the awards for CCtiCap.
    Strikes me that Boeing and SNC are in deep trouble due to their reliance on Atlas.
    How can NASA award either of them a contract when Atlas might be a scrubbed launch vehicle within a year?

    Seems to me that only SpaceX is the only one that has no real external dependancy, and is further along then the other systems.
    As such, SpaceX is about the only real choice that NASA has in a single award scenario.

    If so, I have to wonder what will shelby do?

  • therealdmt

    He’ll try to kill it with accounting requirements.

  • windbourne

    Perhaps, but, at that point, it will be too late.
    I suspect that he would have to push to have all 3 awarded, or only SpaceX. And Shelby and most of the rest of the GOP hates SpaceX, tesla, Solar City, etc.

  • therealdmt

    “I suspect that he would have to push to have all 3 awarded, or only SpaceX.”

    Why have all three awarded? Do you mean that that would leave all three somewhat underfunded and thus slowed down?

    And why just SpaceX? Do you mean because, unlike Boeing, they won’t be able to smoothly switch to an FARs-based contract?

    If he really wanted to slow things down, he’d back Sierra Nevada 😀

    “And Shelby and most of the rest of the GOP hates SpaceX, tesla, Solar City, etc.”
    – God forbid backing innovative, growing American companies that will improve our country’s position down the line… /s

  • Robert Gishubl

    The milestones were provided by the companies, SpaceX is different to Boeing in that Elon wants to go to Mars and will develop Dragon Rider even without NASA. It will just take longer so SpaceX is putting a lot of its own money in. They also had a head start as they had Dragon V1 built for COTS.
    Though looking at Dragon V1 and V2 there is a lot more differences than the initial pictures. Some of the delay I suspect is that the differences between Dragon V1 and V2 are more significant than initially envisaged resulting in more engineering and component testing. In any case SpaceX are flying a prototype as a cargo version to NASA and are learning a lot as they encounter problems and overcome them.

  • windbourne

    No, I want to see Shelby increase funding to what it should be. Ideally, SpaceX would finish in mid 2015, and Boeing/SNC in 2016.
    We can do this.
    Heck, I keep hoping that Musk will grab money from his friends and push Rider and FH through quickly.

  • therealdmt

    I’m with you.

    Unfortunately, Senator Shelby seems to have a very different agenda 🙁

  • windbourne

    I know. But I really think that if spaceX wins this due to atlas, along with closeness, then Shelby will change to being a supporter of awarding 2-3 companies instead.

    Keep in mind that NASA can now argue that atlas leaves ISS to dependent on Russia.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Interesting…the original video posted by SpaceX shows a manned dragon using a tractor style abort system & landing in the water like the cargo version. Guess their plans evolved as congress refused the requested funding for CC & forced NASA to extend the certification process. Guess Elon moved on to his next phase of planning, which was a capsule capable of propulsive landing. Guess if Congress keeps on underfunding the program, Elon will build & test all of his technologies for the Mars Colony Transport at NASA expense.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Better late & on budget than over budget & cancelled mid development like so many of NASA’s other human rated space vehicles.