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Commercial Crew Partners Get Extension

Boeing's CST-100, Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser and SpaceX's Dragon are in the running for NASA Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts. Credit: SpaceNews photo illustration.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA has quietly extended its current partnership agreements with two of the three companies developing space taxis to fly astronauts to and from the international space station, documents posted on NASA’s website show.

Both Space Exploration Technologies  Corp. and Sierra Nevada Corp. now have until March 2015 to complete milestones specified in their Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) contracts, which began in August 2012. The agreements previously were slated to end on Aug. 31, 2014.

An amendment signed by William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, on May 16 gives SpaceX until March 31, 2015, to complete the 14th and final milestone under its $440 million CCiCap agreement — a pad abort test of its Dragon capsule. The test originally was planned for April 2014.

On May 19, Gerstenmaier signed a similar amendment to Sierra Nevada’s $212.5 million CCiCap award to extend work associated with flight tests of the company’s Dream Chaser engineering test article until March 31, 2015.

NASA’s third Commercial Crew partner, Boeing, is on track to complete all its milestones, worth a combined $460 million, by the end of August, NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Martin wrote in an email to SpaceNews.

This is the second time NASA has extended the CCiCap agreements; last August the agency announced it was giving Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX an additional three months and a combined $55 million to tackle a handful of optional risk-reduction efforts.

Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada are vying for additional funding under the fourth and final round of the program. NASA expects to award one or more Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts this summer.

Article Comments

Something in this situation does not add up. Boeing, SpaceX and SNC all take part in this phase of Commercial Crew. SNC receives smaller funding due to both how much development is still needed and budget constraints with pressure from Congress to down select to one or two competitors. Boeing receives the largest award even though they have no flight hardware and limited actual capsule heritage. SpaceX is received the second largest award. They are building on the heritage of their operational Dragon Cargo ship which has always been portrayed as being designed from the start with human flight in mind. Human systems just not built in yet as unneeded for cargo.
The article states that SpaceX and SNC have had their contracts lengthened to allow completion of milestones they need more time for. I know that SpaceX has unveiled a high fidelity prototype /mockup of the Dragon MkII and have actually demonstrated the parachute recovery with a realistic dragon Mk I system. They have yet to execute the pad abort and in flight abort tests. The article claims that Boeing has basically completed its milestones that the higher award paid for but they have not even boilerplate tested their parachute system and I have seen no schedule for the pad and flight tests. How can this be. There doesn't seem to be any equivalence in these "competitors". Do we still have to pay for the Boeing abort tests?

One has to wonder how NASA can make a CCTCap award to a company that has not completed its milestones. Yes, you could say that delays are a reasonable part of aerospace development, but given that the ISS has a finite life, the program cannot wait forever for delayed competitors. If Boeing finishes their work on time and that work is accepted by NASA then the question almost answers itself.

What a joke ! There aren't any equivalence in these "milestones".
Everybody knows that SpaceX is far more close to a flying spacecraft than Boeing or SNC.

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