Seats aboard Dragon and the CST-100 should also be cheaper than the current cost to launch people to space.
The private spaceflight companies Boeing and SpaceX are on track to start launching NASA astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017, representatives of both firms said Monday (Jan. 26).
In September 2014, SpaceX and Boeing were awarded contracts under NASA's commercial crew program to help them start flying astronauts on missions to the space station from U.S. soil in the next few years. SpaceX and Boeing are planning to launch a series of tests of their spaceships—capsules called Dragon V2 and the CST-100, respectively—from this year through 2017. The tests will make sure the launch systems are in good shape before the spacecraft make their first official runs to and from the station.
Seats aboard Dragon and the CST-100 should also be cheaper than the current cost to launch people to space. NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to deliver astronauts to the orbiting outpost since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011; at the moment, NASA is paying about $70 million for each Soyuz seat. [The Top 10 Private Spaceships]
The space agency has required that commercial providers like Boeing and SpaceX meet or go below a $58 million average price per seat, according to NASA officials. Both Boeing and SpaceX representatives have said that their per-seat cost is at or below the current price of a Soyuz seat.
"The contracts we've signed with our industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are vivid examples of American innovation at work, " NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a news conference Monday. "We've seen the return of an American launch industry and the in-sourcing of work and jobs back to U.S. shores. Our reliance on a commercial space enterprise where we hand off low-Earth orbit transportation to the private sector is critical to our journey to Mars."
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