WASHINGTON (AFP) – NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America’s next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight.
NASA, which has been unable to send astronauts to space since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, awarded a total of $6.8 billion to the two companies for their respective spacecraft.
“The total potential contract value is $4.2 billion for Boeing and $2.6 billion for SpaceX,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said.
“It was not an easy choice, but it is the best choice for NASA and the nation.”
The agency has spent more than $1.4 billion since 2010 to help private companies including SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada – which lost out Tuesday – develop their own crew transport vehicles.
With the end of the 30-year space shuttle programme, the world’s space powers have had to rely on Russia’s Soyuz for transporting rocket scientists to the orbiting outpost, at a cost of $70 million per seat.
“From day one, the (President Barack) Obama administration has made it clear that the greatest nation on Earth should not be dependent on other nations to get into space,” Bolden said.
“Thanks to the leadership of President Obama and the hard work of our NASA and industry teams, today we are one step closer to launching our astronauts from US soil on American spacecraft and ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia by 2017.”