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NASA Picks Boeing And SpaceX To Ferry Astronauts

In this undated image provided by NASA, astronaut Randy Bresnik prepares to enter The Boeing Company's CST-100 spacecraft for a fit check evaluation at the company's Houston Product Support Center.

NASA is a giant step closer to launching Americans again from U.S. soil.

On Tuesday, the space agency announced it has picked Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few years.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden named the winners at a late-afternoon news conference at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The news had been eagerly anticipated for weeks.

Analyst Marco Caceres with The Teal Group says it’s no surprise that NASA picked Boeing.

“NASA’s a conservative culture; they don’t really like to take risks, particularly when it comes to their astronauts,” Caceres said. “And so you want to build systems with companies that you’re comfortable with, that you know very well, that you’re cultures blend really well, and so Boeing is a known commodity.”

The deal will end NASA's expensive reliance on Russia. U.S. astronauts have been riding Russian rockets ever since NASA's shuttles retired in 2011. The latest price tag is $71 million per seat.

Boeing’s $4.2 billion contract will cover development of the capsule that will launch the astronauts. The spacecraft will then go through a stringent certification process and eventually take up to six trips into space. It’s not clear where the lion’s share of the work will be done, but Boeing does have a team in western Washington that designs slick interiors for commercial spacecraft. 

NASA has set a goal of 2017 for the first launch under the commercial crew program. Both companies will use crew capsules. Launches will originate from Cape Canaveral.

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