NASA has announced a deal with SpaceX and Boeing to build space taxis to shuttle astronauts to the International Space Station. This deal will end NASA’s reliance on expensive Russian crew transport by 2017. The cost was a whopping $71 million per seat. However, the rising tensions in Ukraine may have also been a factor in the push for U.S. contracts.
It’s still not clear which company is going to get to command the first mission to carry humans into low-Earth orbit on a spacecraft, but according to NASA, the vehicles chosen will either be Boeing’s CST-100 or SpaceX’s Dragon. The total potential contract value is $4.2 billion for Boeing and $2.6 billion for SpaceX.
NASA also considered a bid from privately owned Sierra Nevada Corp. but went with Boeing and SpaceX instead. It should be noted that Boeing and SpaceX have won most of NASA’s development funds.
SpaceX already has a $1.3 billion NASA contract to fly cargo to the space station. SpaceX will now upgrade its Dragon freighter and is expected to launch on top of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket to the orbiting outpost this week, according to Space.com. It will be packed with more than 5,000 lbs of materials for the crew – including the first ever 3D printer in space.
NASA also has a $1.9 billion contract for resupply missions with Orbital Sciences Corp.
Here’s a video of what could potentially be the first ever space taxi, the SpaceX Dragon, for reference: