NASA Issues Call for New Space Taxis
NASA is looking for at least two U.S. firms to design and build space taxis to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, program managers said. NASA plans to invest $300 million to $500 million in each of the firms selected under new 21-month partnership agreements. The new program aims to build upon previous NASA investments in companies designing commercial passenger spaceships.
With the retirement of the U.S. space shuttles last year, Russia has a monopoly on flying crews to the station, a $100 billion orbiting laboratory for medical, materials science and other research. China, the only other country that has flown people in orbit, is not a partner in the project. Russia charges NASA about $60 million per person for rides to the station, which flies about 240 miles above Earth and is staffed by rotating crews of six astronauts from the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.