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 will partner with Boeing and SpaceX to build commercially owned and operated “space taxis” to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, ending U.S. dependence on Russia for rides, officials said on Tuesday. The U.S. space agency also considered a bid by privately owned Sierra Nevada Corp, but opted to award long-time aerospace contractor Boeing and California’s SpaceX with contracts valued at a combined $6.8 billion to develop, certify and fly their seven-person capsules. Boeing was awarded $4.2 billion to SpaceX’s $2.6 billion. SpaceX is run by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, also the chief executive officer of electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors. “SpaceX is deeply honored by the trust NASA has placed in us,” said Musk, a South Africa-born, Canadian American billionaire. “It is a vital step in a journey that will ultimately take us to the stars and make humanity a multi-planet species.” The awards position Boeing and SpaceX to be ready for commercial flight services in 2017, said Kathy Leuders, manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew program. She said both contracts have the same requirements. “The companies proposed the value within which they were able to do the work and the government accepted that,” Leuders told reporters in a conference call. The contract has taken on new urgency given rising tensions between the United States and Russia over its annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine and support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.