Yesterday, NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to bring astronauts back into space. This signals the agency’s return to manned space flight after the end of the space shuttle program.
The two companies competed in an expensive battle to determine who could build a winning spacecraft for the next era. And according to Kathy Lueders, the program manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Boeing’s contract could have a value of $4.2 billion while SpaceX’s deal is valued at $2.6 billion.
Why two contracts? Lueders says that have two contracts will ensure that the project stays on deadline for a 2017 flight. Despite having two contracts, SpaceX has the advantage of being the first to launch cargo to the International Space Station. They hope to jockey that experience into manned spaceflight with their Dragon spacecraft.
Lueders said that both companies will be paid by reaching milestones. Their most important one is to successfully make manned flights to the International Space Station, where they will have to demonstrate their ability to deliver cargo, dock and then return safely to Earth.