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SpaceX, Boeing on Track to Take Astronauts to Space Station by 2017

Boeing and SpaceX voiced confidence Monday that they would be able to take astronauts from American soil to the International Space Station by 2017. The two companies made the official announcement at a press conference at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "I don't ever want to write another check to Roscosmos after 2017," said NASA administrator Charles Bolden, referring to the Russian space agency that now charges $71 million a seat for a ride to the ISS. "If we can make that date, I'll be a happy camper." NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011, and has relied on Russia to take its astronauts into space ever since. Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office ruled that NASA acted properly when awarding $6.8 billion to Boeing and SpaceX. Sierra Nevada Corporation had earlier challenged the decision.

NASA plans to utilize both SpaceX and Boeing to take astronauts into space, instead of picking one over the other. The agency said that the arrangement could double the amount of scientific research done on the ISS by astronauts. SpaceX is planning an uncrewed test flight by the end of 2016, while Boeing is planning to launch one in early 2017. Boeing's CST-100 capsule and the Dragon capsule from SpaceX will both be designed to carry four to five people along with cargo and be reused at least 10 times. Bolden said that it was important to allow private corporations to take astronauts into low-earth orbit so that NASA could focus on its goal of eventually sending astronauts to Mars.

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— Keith Wagstaff