NASA announced that Boeing and SpaceX will ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The announcement signals the agency’s return to manned spaceflight after the end of the space shuttle program.
“This is the fulfillment of the commitment President Obama made to return human space flight launches to U.S. soil and end our reliance on the Russians,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said.
Turning over commercial space flight to private industry will end the United States’ reliance on Russia, the NASA administrator said. American astronauts currently use Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get to the station.
Boeing, SpaceX, and a third company, Sierra Nevada Corp., are receiving more than $1 billion to design commercial “space taxis” for NASA’s use. The push to build the spacecraft is expected to cost NASA billions of dollars more.
The SpaceX Dragon V2 rides atop a 9-engine Falcon 9 rocket, carries seven passengers, is 12 feet in diameter, and can land with the “precision of a helicopter” anywhere in the world. Boeing’s CST-100 rides on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, has a slightly different design, and is slightly larger at 15 feet in diameter. It is also designed to carry seven people.