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NASA awards 'space taxi' funding

Aug. 3, 2012 at 6:32 PM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Two U.S. companies will split almost $1 billion in federal funds for development of the next-generation of manned spacecraft, industry officials say.

Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. have been awarded the bulk of the funding NASA is offering for the development of commercially-owned and operated vehicles, dubbed space taxis, intended to shuttle crews to and from the International Space Station, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Chicago-based Boeing reportedly will get $460 million for its seven-person CST-100 capsule, which will launch on an Atlas rocket with the first test flight set for 2016.

NASA said it would give SpaceX $446 million for ongoing development of its Dragon capsule, which SpaceX has already successfully launched into orbit atop its own Falcon rocket.

The Dragon can accommodate seven people and will have its first manned test launch in 2015, SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Brost Grantham said.

NASA said it has chosen a third company, Sierra Nevada Corp. of Louisville, Colo., to receive a smaller amount -- $212 million -- for development of a mini-shuttle crew vehicle called Dream Chaser, that carries seven people and could be flown without a pilot.

The ship is based on an old NASA test ship design but is behind SpaceX's Dragon in test flight time.

In a statement, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the funding of the three companies "will help keep us on track to tend the outsourcing of human spaceflight."

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