NASA has announced that astronauts will once again travel to and from the International Space Station (ISS) from the US on American spacecraft, thanks to new contracts announced just hours ago. The US space agency announced its partnerships with Boeing and SpaceX to transfer US crews to and from the ISS using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, ending its reliance on Russia by 2017.
NASA administrator, Charlie Bolden, said at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida: "From day one, the Obama Administration made clear that the greatest nation on Earth should not be dependent on other nations to get into space. Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, the hard work of our NASA and industry teams, and support from Congress, today we are one step closer to launching our astronauts from U.S. soil on American spacecraft and ending the nation's sole reliance on Russia by 2017. Turning over low-Earth orbit transportation to private industry will also allow NASA to focus on an even more ambitious mission - sending humans to Mars".
This deal has seen Boeing end up with $4.2 billion, while SpaceX receives a cheque from NASA for $2.6 billion. These new contracts include at least one rewed flight test per company, with NASA having one astronaut aboard to "verify the fully integrated rocket and spacecraft system can launch, maneuver in orbit, and dock to the space station, as well as validate all its systems perform as expected".