As NASA begins to plan for a follow-on contract to transport cargo to the ISS, the agency announced plans Monday to extend its current contracts with Orbital Science and SpaceX. In a procurement synopsis posted Monday, NASA said it will perform a no-cost extension of its current Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contracts with the two companies, extending the contracts from December 2015 to December 2017.
The announcement doesn’t indicate how many additional cargo missions would be awarded to the two companies; both contracts include options for additional missions. “There’s a lot of work ahead before we’d have a number of flights,” a NASA spokesperson told Space News Monday.
To date, SpaceX has performed two of the twelve CRS flights under its contracts, with a third planned for launch likely later this month, after a problem with the launch range at Cape Canaveral postponed a March 30 launch attempt. Orbital has flown one of its eight CRS missions, with a second planned for launch in early May, a date that could slip depending on when the SpaceX mission flies.
Even without additional flights, the extension would likely be needed in order to accommodate all the currently contracted flights in the original CRS contracts. A schedule of ISS missions included in the fiscal year 2015 budget justification document for NASA indicates that SpaceX’s eighth CRS mission, the last listed, is slated for launch in June 2015, while Orbital’s fifth CRS mission is planned for launching July 2015. At the projected pace of missions—about four per year for SpaceX and three per year for Orbital—the companies’ final missions under their current contracts would extend into at least mid-2016.