NASA has announced funding for three private aerospace companies, pledging a total of $1.1 billion to help launch astronauts to the International Space Station from American soil. Boeing and SpaceX will have their proposals fully funded, receiving $460 and $440 million respectively. The Sierra Nevada Corporation will also receive $212.5 million, likely towards its Dream Chaser. The funding is part of the CCiCAP, or Commercial Crew Integrated Capability initiative. From now until May 2014, the three companies will develop and test a full commercial crew transportation system (including spacecraft, launch vehicle, and mission control) with the ultimate goal of launching astronauts in the next five years.
These grants are the latest in NASA's ongoing public-private partnerships, which are meant to outsource the more mundane aspects of space travel (namely, sending supplies and passengers to the ISS) while maintaining an American infrastructure. The SpaceX Dragon capsule recently became the first private craft to dock with the ISS and offload supplies, but astronauts still fly in Russian Soyuz capsules after the end of the Space Shuttle program. Boeing has long been a go-to partner for NASA, but the relatively new SpaceX has risen quickly, and the two companies are receiving almost equal grants. Longtime aerospace manufacturer ATK, meanwhile, has been left out of CCiCAP funding, despite heavily promoting its Liberty rocket.