NASA has partnered with SpaceX and Boeing to send astronauts up in space taxis to the International Space Station.
This partnership will bring to an end NASA’s reliance on the expensive Russian crew transport by 2017. The Russian crew transport costs $71 million per seat. Apart from this cost, the rising tensions in Ukraine may have also been a factor in the push for this deal.
What is still not clear is the company which will get to command the first mission to carry humans into low-Earth orbit on a spacecraft. However, NASA says the vehicle chosen will either be SpaceX’s Dragon or Boeing CST – 100.
The total potential contract value is $2.6 billion for SpaceX and $4.4 billion for Boeing. Another bid considered was that of a privately owned Sierra Nevada Corp but NASA chose to go with SpaceX and Boeing instead. It is worth noting that the two have won most of NASA’s development funds.
Already, SpaceX has a $1.3 billion NASA-contract to fly cargo to the space station. It will now upgrade its Dragon freighter. It is also expected to launch on top of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket to the orbiting outpost this week.
SpaceX will be packed with over 5,000lbs of materials for those on board. The materials include a 3D printer, the first ever in space.