WASHINGTON — Three companies were selected by NASA on Friday as the winners of a $1.1 billion competition to build so-called space taxis to ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
The award — split among Boeing Co., Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Sierra Nevada Corp. — puts NASA on track to meet its goal of using a domestic rocket company to blast astronauts to the station as early as 2017, a vital objective as the 2011 retirement of the space shuttle has forced the agency to rely on Russia to launch U.S. spacefarers.
"By investing in American companies, and American ingenuity, we're spurring free market competition to give taxpayers more bang for the buck while enabling NASA to do what we do best — reach for the heavens," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who announced the winners at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The winners were:
• Boeing, awarded $460 million to help the defense giant build an Apollolike capsule designed to carry seven astronauts and launch aboard an Atlas V rocket.
• Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, an industry upstart run by Internet tycoon Elon Musk, awarded $440 million for its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket; it also is expected to carry up to seven astronauts. The company made history in May when it became the first to dock a commercial spacecraft to the station.
• Sierra Nevada, awarded $212.5 million for its Dream Chaser spacecraft. Resembling a miniature space shuttle, it also is designed to carry seven crew members and would launch on an Atlas V rocket .