NASA inks 'taxi' deal with SpaceX

SpaceX has officially secured its first astronaut transportation contract with NASA. 

SpaceX is modifying Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to adapt it to the needs of the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, which are slated to lift off from the historic pad in the near future.

It's official: SpaceX will fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station a few years from now.

California-based SpaceX has secured its first astronaut taxi order under its Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract with NASA, agency officials announced Friday (Nov. 20).

The milestone marks the second of four guaranteed orders the space agency will make under its CCtCap deals with SpaceX and Boeing, which received its first order this past May. [Photos: Meet SpaceX's Crewed Dragon for Astronaut Trips]

"It's really exciting to see SpaceX and Boeing with hardware in flow for their first crew rotation missions," Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said in a statement. "It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from U.S. companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its life span."

In September 2014, NASA awarded Boeing and SpaceX $4.2 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively, to finish work on their astronaut taxi systems. Boeing is developing a capsule called the CST-100 Starliner, while SpaceX is working on a crewed version of its Dragon cargo capsule, which has already visited the orbiting lab six times on robotic resupply runs under a separate NASA contract.

NASA wants both Boeing and SpaceX to be ready to fly astronauts by late 2017. The agency has not yet decided which company will fly the first private crewed mission to the orbiting lab.

The United States has been unable to launch its own astronauts since the space shuttle fleet retired in July 2011; the nation has been buying seats aboard Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, which cost more than $70 million apiece per flight.

Shifting over to private American spacecraft should reduce such costs and also boost the scientific output of the orbiting lab, because the CST-100 Starliner and Dragon will be able to carry more passengers than the three-person Soyuz, NASA officials said. Each of the American capsules can seat up to seven astronauts, though a standard mission to the space station will carry up to four crewmembers and about 220 lbs. (100 kilograms) of pressurized cargo.

"Commercial crew launches are really important for helping us meet the demand for research on the space station because it allows us to increase the crew to seven," Julie Robinson, International Space Station chief scientist, said in the same statement. (To date, a full crew aboard the orbiting lab has consisted of six people.)  

"Over the long term, it also sets the foundation for scientific access to future commercial research platforms in low Earth orbit," Robinson added.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook orGoogle+. Originally published on

Copyright 2015, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to NASA inks 'taxi' deal with SpaceX
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today