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article imageOld and new aerospace firms win NASA contract for 'space taxi'

By Nathan Salant     Sep 18, 2014 in Science
Cape Canaveral - Boeing and SpaceX have been chosen for nearly $7 billion in U.S. funding to develop a commercial space capsule to bring astronauts to the international space station.
NASA wants the new "space taxi" to enable the agency to stop having to use Russian-built Soyuz capsules to ferry astronauts to the space station now that relations between the U.S. and Russian Federation are at a low point over the political situation in Ukraine.
The new commercial vehicles — Boeing Co.'s CST-100 and SpaceX Corp.'s Dragon spaceships upgraded to carry seven crew members — are expected to be ready for use by 2017.
"The greatest nation on Earth should not be dependent on any other nation to get into space," NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said in announcing the selection at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, according to the Florida Today newspaper in Melborne.
"Today, we're one step closer to launching our astronauts from U.S. soil on American spacecraft and ending the nation's sole reliance on Russia by 2017," Bolden said.
The Russian Federation has flown astronauts on its Soyuz spacecraft since the retirement of the US Space Shuttle fleet in 2011.
Contracts awarded Tuesday included $4.2 billion for Boeing and $2.4 billion for SpaceX, one of two private spaceship builders under contract to deliver supplies to the orbiting station.
A third U.S. company, Sierra Nevada Corp, also was in the bidding but was not selected, the newspaper said.
“SpaceX is deeply honored by the trust NASA has placed in us," said SpaceX Corp. CEO Elon Musk, also the CEO of Tesla Motors, at the announcement.
"It is a vital step in a journey that will ultimately take us to the stars and make humanity a multi-planet species," he said.
Boeing and SpaceX have won nearly all of the private spaceship contracts put out to bid by NASA, the newspaper said.
Kathy Leuders, who manages NASA's Commercial Crew program, said the contracts awarded Tuesday allow the companies to retain ownership of the spaceships and could enable them to offer rides into space for tourists in the future.
“The work that we have underway … is making the possibility for everyone to someday see our planet Earth from space,” said Kennedy Space Center director Bob Cabana, a former astronaut.
"I know a lot of us are cheering on the success of our Commercial Crew program, not because of what it means to NASA … but what it means to human spaceflight for everyone, Cabana said.
NASA said the contracts awarded Tuesday include options for up to six missions on the redesigned spacecraft, the newspaper said.
More about Space taxi, Shuttle, Space station, Boeing, Spacex
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