The US Space Agency NASA has chosen Boeing and California’s SpaceX to develop a new system to take American astronauts into space.
The companies will build and and operate so-called “space taxis” to fly personnel to the International Space Station.
It means the end of US dependence on Russia whose Soyuz vehicles replaced the retired space shuttles in 2011.
NASA spokesperson Charles F. Bolden jr. :
“By combining private sector ingenuity with bipartisan national commitment and the unmatched expertise of NASA we are not only better able to stretch the boundaries of the possible, we’re strengthening our economy and creating good jobs for our people.”
That said the multi-billion dollar contract has also taken on a new urgency since relations between Washington and Moscow have become strained over the crisis in Ukraine.
Washington also says it is a question of cost: The price per flight now being charged by Moscow is $70m (54m euros) a seat which it says is excessive.
The seven-passenger capsules known as CST-100 will fly atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, in Florida and return to earth with the assistance of a heat shield and parachutes.