The dependence on Russia is to be ended. That is why Nasa, together with Boeing and SpaceX, will once again transport astronauts into space itself.
Allegedly on the moon: Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. Picture: ap
Nasa wants to launch its space missions from American soil again in the future. On Tuesday, the U.S. space agency selected aircraft manufacturer Boeing and private company SpaceX to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in the coming years. The target date for the first launch from Cape Canaveral is 2017. But safety standards will not be sacrificed to meet the deadline at any cost, Nasa stressed.
The major contract awarded to Boeing and SpaceX is intended to put an end to the USA’s dependence on Russia. Since Nasa’s space shuttles were retired in 2011, the Russian Soyuz capsule has carried at least four American astronauts into space every year. The most recent cost: $71 million per seat.
"From day one, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has made it clear that the greatest nation on Earth should not have to rely on another nation for spaceflight," said Nasa Director Charles Bolden, who announced the winning bidder Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Boeing will receive $4.2 billion (about 3.2 billion euros) and SpaceX $2.6 billion from Nasa. The companies are to handle the testing and commissioning of the crew capsules. According to the contracts, up to six space missions for a four-person crew are to be launched in this way. The companies are also tasked with delivering supplies and supporting science experiments, according to Nasa manager in charge Kathy Lueders.
"Deeply honored and grateful"
Nasa relied on a proven mix of old and new for the selection contractor: the traditional house Boeing already helped build the ISS and prepared the space shuttles. The Californian company SpaceX has only been around for twelve years, but it has already delivered supplies to the ISS. Their crew capsule is a version of their cargo shuttle.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk expressed his delight at the award. "Deeply honored and grateful for the confidence Nasa has placed in SpaceX with the future of human spaceflight in mind," he tweeted. Boeing Vice President John Elbon expressed equal enthusiasm. The aircraft maker has been part of every manned American space program, he said. "We are honored that Nasa has chosen us to continue this legacy."
Also in the running for the lucrative contract was Sierra Nevada, which had competed with a mini-shuttle called Dream Chaser. Nasa representatives would not say why the company was not considered.