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Cabs to the cosmos: NASA awards $1.1 billion to 'space taxi' development

Boeing Space Craft

AP Photo/Boeing

This undated artist illustration provided by Boeing shows the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100, comprised of a Crew Module and a Service Module, leverages Apollo-proven aerodynamic characteristics in a design employing modern, cost effective technologies.

Space Shuttle Private

AP Photo/Sierra Nevada Space Systems

This artist's rendering provided by Sierra Nevada Space Systems shows the company's proposed Dream Chaser spacecraft docking with the International Space Station.

Private Space

AP Photo/SpaceX

This computer generated image provided by SpaceX shows their Dragon supply spacecraft with solar panels deployed.

NASA announced Friday that Hawthorne-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or Space X, will receive $440 million toward developing small spaceships to take astronauts to the International Space Station.

Space X, founded by billionaire PayPal co-creator and Tesla Motors head, Elon Musk, was one of three aerospace companies named to develop the ferrying flying machines. Boeing was also selected to receive $460 million, and Sierra Nevada Corp. won a contract worth $212.5 million.   

"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," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement.

Together, the winners will share more than $1.1 billion as part of NASA's efforts to get private companies to do what the space shuttle no longer does. Currently, the U.S. space agency relies on Russia for ISS transport at the cost of about $63 million per astronaut.


SpaceX 'Dragon' wings back to Earth, splashes down in the Pacific


Photo credit: ESA/NASA

SpaceX "Dragon" smoothly undocked, moved out, released and on its way home on May 31, 2012.

Six hours after departing the International Space Station, the now legendary SpaceX "Dragon" parachuted back to its home planet and splashed into the Pacific Ocean. 

The unmanned cargo ship, returing from space with nearly 1,400 pounds of old gear, was launched last week by Hawthorne-based Space Exploration Technologies, or "SpaceX," making history as the first private rocket company to fly cargo to the International Space Station.  

NASA, having made its last space shuttle flight earlier this year, is now relying on private companies like Space X to make those space runs. The world's first commercial supply ship was let loose by astronauts on Thursday after a five-day visit to the final frontier. 

Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers described the experience via Twitter, writing that "Dragon smoothly undocked, moved out, released and on its way home."