NASA Invests $500M In Commercial Firms For Spacecraft

NASA said Friday that it is investing $500M in two commercial firms to develop commercial space vehicles. The agency said that it is investing in El Segundo, California-based SpaceX, and Oklahoma-based Rocketplane-Kistler to develop and demonstrate vehicles, which it hopes will create a competitive market for supply flights to the International Space Station. The agency said it hopes to become customers for the firms once the space shuttle is retired. NASA said that demonstrations are scheduled to begin as early as 2008, and continue through 2010 or later. The new venture will have two phases; the first will include the safe disposal or return of a spacecraft that successfully docks at the ISS and delivers cargo; the second phase has NASA purchasing transportation competitively. NASA also said that it hopes to potentially extend the commercialization program to power, communications, and habitation facilities in the future. El Segundo-based SpaceX, which is headed by Paypal co-founder Elon Musk, has been working on a commercial launch vehicle, although it has yet to successfully launch one. SpaceX and Rocketplane-Kistler were selected from nearly 100 companies and 20 proposals.