The National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Friday announced new agreements with three American commercial companies, including Boeing, to design and develop the next generation of United States human spaceflight capabilities, enabling a launch of astronauts from the US soil in the next five years.
In addition to Boeing the other two companies are Sierra Nevada Corporation and Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX.
Advances made by these companies under newly signed Space Act Agreements through the agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability initiative are intended to ultimately lead to the availability of commercial human spaceflight services for government and commercial customers, NASA said in a statement.
"We are announcing another critical step toward launching our astronauts from US soil on space systems built by American companies," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
"We have selected three companies that will help keep us on track to end the outsourcing of human spaceflight and create high-paying jobs in Florida and elsewhere across the country," he announced.
An initiative of NASA's Commercial Crew Program and an administration priority, the objective of the CCP is to facilitate the development of a US commercial crew space
transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and low earth orbit.
After the capability is matured and expected to be available to the government and other customers, NASA could contract to purchase commercial services to meet its station crew transportation needs.
The American space industry welcomed the NASA decision. "The Space Foundation is pleased that the US is moving to the next phase in regaining human spaceflight capability," said Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham.
"This is an absolutely critical component to rebuilding a robust space programme and we're excited to see what happens next," he said and congratulated Sierra Nevada Corporation, SpaceX and The Boeing Company.
"We also think it's fitting that this announcement is being made on the eve of Curiosity's landing on Mars because it underscores the importance of both manned and robotic space flight," he said.