NASA Is Outsourcing 'Space Taxi' Service to SpaceX, Boeing

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, shows off the Dragon 2 in May -- functionally similar to the Dragon taxi service that will deliver astronauts.
We finally have a replacement for the Space Shuttle — or rather, two replacements. And neither of them will be built by NASA.
SpaceX and Boeing will both be awarded contracts for a "space taxi" rocket launch system that will deliver up to four NASA astronauts to the International Space Station at a time, with an eye to full NASA certification of the systems in 2017.
Currently, NASA has to buy seats on Russian Soyuz rockets to ferry astronauts to the ISS. Not only does that cost $70 million per seat — at a half-dozen seats per year — it's increasingly problematic as Russia has become more belligerent and Western nations have been searching for sanctions.
"The greatest nation on Earth should not be dependent on any other nation to get us into space," NASA administrator Charles Bolden said pointedly during the contract announcement Tuesday.
Under its Commercial Crew and Cargo Program — also known as C-3PO — NASA has already awarded both companies contracts to deliver supplies to the ISS. Human transport is the next logical step. NASA will be spending a total of $6.8 billion on the contracts.
Boeing will get the lion's share of that — $4.2 billion, versus $2.6 billion for SpaceX — but both will be delivering essentially the same service.
Starting in 2017, these new ships will allow for a larger capacity on the ISS — 7 people at a time rather than 6, NASA said — and will allow for more human spaceflight time overall. The ships will also act as lifeboats in any space emergency, with the ability to support a crew in orbit for more than 200 days, the agency added.
The Boeing delivery vehicle is the CST-100; the aerospace giant will build three of them, and says each one will be reusable up to 10 times. Here's Boeing's promotional video for the CST-100:

CST-100 Dream Lives On by talkingpointsmemo
And here's the proposed SpaceX service, given the rather more exciting name of the Dragon Taxi:

Dragon's Taxi - spacex - v2 - animation by talkingpointsmemo
Sierra Nevada Space Systems and Blue Origin, which is Jeff Bezos' privately funded space venture, were also in the running to provide space shuttle service.

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