Charles Bolden, NASA administrator, said in a press conference Tuesday from Kennedy Space Center that the contracts are worth up to $6.8 billion combined, with up to $4.2 billion for Boeing and $2.6 billion for SpaceX.
Boeing will offer its CST-100 space capsule to NASA for cargo and human transportation to the space station and carry out launches with the Atlas V rocket.
SpaceX will use its Dragon capsule for the Commercial Crew Program and intends to use a U.S.-built engine for launches.
The agency aims to have U.S. astronauts in space by 2017 through the program.
Bolden said agency sought partnerships with the private sector to help “more people in America… realize the dream of leaving Earth for even a short time to float above our planet Earth in microgravity and to see the stars and the majestic tapestry of the Milky Way unobstructed by the artificial lights and dust of our atmosphere.”
“Today we are one step closer to launching our astronauts from U.S. soil on American spacecraft and ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia by 2017, ” Bolden said.
“Turning over low-Earth orbit transportation to private industry will also allow NASA to focus on an even more ambitious mission – sending humans to Mars.”
NASA seeks to replace the Space Shuttle as its means of travel into space, cut its reliance on foreign partners for space transportation and involve U.S. aerospace companies in the development of a human space transportation system through the CCP program.
The contracts call on the company to carry out at least one test flight each to verify the ability of their rockets and spacecraft to launch, maneuver in orbit, dock to the space station and validate system performance.
Contractors involved in the commercial program competition met with the space agency during the summer to discuss their progress in the program
After the tests, contractors will conduct between two and six crewed missions to the space station.