Ever since NASA scuttled the space shuttle program in favor of having commercial space companies transport Americans into orbit, we’ve been waiting to see what would be the U.S.’s next official mode of transport. Now we finally know.
The space agency has been conducting a competition for quite a while to determine which private companies they’d sign on with, and they’ve officially selected Boeing and SpaceX — two frontrunners that have been putting together some intriguing spacecraft over the past year or two of development. The New York Times reports that the first flights to the International Space Station (ISS) could take off as early as 2017.
Boeing received a $4.2 billion contract, while SpaceX received a $2.6 billion contract to develop their separate craft. Boeing’s CST-100 capsule, which can carry up to five people, will launch on an Atlas 5 rocket. SpaceX’s slick Dragon 2 capsule, which is an updated version of the craft already ferrying cargo to the space station, will launch from the company’s own Falcon 9 rocket.
This represents a major step forward for the new-look NASA, and would obviously allow the U.S. to end its current reliance on Russia to get American astronauts to and from the ISS. NASA’s commercial crew program manager Kathryn Lueders noted the agency has “credible plans for both companies” to hit the 2017 launch target.
Plus, by investing billions in commercial spaceflight, NASA’s efforts will (hopefully) spur some major advancements and growth into what currently looks like our best hope of finally getting humanity into space for potential exploration missions. Do you think commercial space flight is the answer?