While China, Russia and the European Union are investing heavily on space exploration, the U.S. is falling far behind. The retirement of the space shuttle fleet means manned flights to space by the United States is out of the question at the moment. NASA astronauts have to hitch rides from space agencies in other countries to get to the International Space Station. The lack of investment by the U.S. government has driven space travel to the private sector. By awarding $30 million to the Boeing (News - Alert) Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation Space System and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), NASA hopes to find a reliable crew transportation system in this country.
The companies are going through the certification products contracts (CPC (News - Alert)) phase, which is the first contract phase that will make sure the transportation system they are going to provide will meet the requirements of the agency.
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"These contracts represent important progress in restoring human spaceflight capabilities to the United States. NASA and its industry partners are committed to the goal of safely and cost-effectively launching astronauts from home within the next five years,” said Phil McAlister, director of the commercial Spaceflight Development Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
The Boeing Company received $9.9 million for the CST-100 capsule, Sierra Nevada Corp. gets $10 million for their Dream Chaser spacecraft and SpaceX received $9.59 million for upgrading its Dragon capsule.
During the first phase of the contract, the companies will be working with the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Beside the flight and safety performance requirements, they will have to implement a space system which includes the ground and mission operations, launch vehicle and the spacecraft. This phase of the contract will run from January 22, 2013 through May 30, 2014.
The second phase of the contract is projected to begin in mid-2014 with full and open competition. This phase is part of the final development of the project with testing as well as verification for crewed flights to the space station.
There is no guarantee in space travel, but NASA hopes to get one of these companies to carry their astronauts in to space by 2017.
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