HOUSTON, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Va., and SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., have been tapped to resupply the International Space Station when the space shuttle retires.
The two relatively small companies beat out industry giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin to win the $3.5 billion contract Tuesday, NASA said.
Orbital and SpaceX are to share unmanned cargo duties from 2010, when the shuttle fleet retires, until a new U.S. spacecraft is built, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Russian rockets will ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the Space Station during that time, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday.
"It is a way of taking American taxpayers' dollars to pay an American company to take American payloads to the space station so we're not entirely dependent on the kindness of the Russians," said John Pike, a space expert at Global Security.org, a Washington think tank.