NASA is awarding Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Space Exploration Technologies Corp contracts that might one day allow for commercial manned spacecraft to carry crews to the International Space Station.

The three companies will work with the National Air and Space Administration's (NASA) commercial crew programme to develop flight safety and performance requirements during phase one of the contract. "This includes implementation across all aspects of the space system, including the spacecraft, launch vehicle, and ground and mission operations," NASA says.

"NASA and its industry partners are committed to the goal of safely and cost-effectively launching astronauts from home within the next five years," says Phil McAlister, NASA's director of commercial spaceflight development.

A second phase of the certification contract, which would include final development and testing of the system, is expected to begin in mid-2014. It is expected to involve a new competition.

Source: Flight International