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Who Will Build NASA's Space Taxis?

With the end of NASA's space shuttle program, the space agency will rely on others for travel to space. Here are the leading companies and their current generation space taxi systems.

SpaceDev DreamChaser

COMPANY: Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nevada.

THE BASICS: A high-tech government contractor that recently bought one of the early private space firms, SpaceDev Inc.

WEB SITE: www.sncorp.com

SpaceDev

SpaceDev DreamChaser 2

COMPANY: Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nevada.

THE BASICS: The company's Dream Chaser vehicle looks like a miniature space shuttle; it's a design is based on a NASA concept vehicle first drawn up in the early 1980s.

WEB SITE: www.sncorp.com

NASA/James Schultz

SpaceDev DreamChaser3

COMPANY: Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nevada.

THE BASICS: NASA awarded the company $80 million in 2011 to continue developing the Dream Chaser for the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program -- NASA's efforts to replace the space shuttle.

WEB SITE: www.sncorp.com

NASA/Bill Ingalls

sierra_dreamchaser.jpg

COMPANY: Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nevada.

THE BASICS: The Dream Chaser Space System will offer safe, reliable, and cost effective crew and cargo transportation to low Earth orbit, the company says.

WEB SITE: www.sncorp.com

SNC

SpaceX Falcon 1

COMPANY: Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California.

THE BASICS: Run by PayPal founder Elon Musk, this company has already built and tested a private rocket, Falcon, and has a capsule for astronauts, Dragon. It already has a demonstration contract for private cargo with NASA. It is considered a leader in the field.

WEB SITE: www.spacex.com

SpaceX

SpaceX Falcon 9 Engine Test

COMPANY: Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California.

THE BASICS: Seen here is the Falcon 9, SpaceX's private rocket intended to take the U.S. space program into the 21st century, during a successful 2010 launch into orbit.

WEB SITE: www.spacex.com

SpaceX

SpaceX Falcon Heavy

COMPANY: Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California.

THE BASICS: An artist's conception of the Falcon Heavy, which the company claims will be able to launch satellites or interplanetary spacecraft over 53 tons into orbit. It will can lift twice as much as the space shuttle, SpaceX says.

WEB SITE: www.spacex.com

SpaceX

SpaceX Dragon

COMPANY: Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California.

THE BASICS: The SpaceX Dragon is the company's effort to build a free-flying reusable spacecraft to carry cargo or crew. It is designed for launch on the Falcon rockets.

WEB SITE: www.spacex.com

NASA

SpaceX Dragon 2

COMPANY: Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California.

THE BASICS: SpaceX already has a demonstration contract for private cargo resupply missions using the Dragon capsule with NASA.

WEB SITE: www.spacex.com

SpaceX

spacex_falcon9.jpg

COMPANY: Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California.

THE BASICS: SpaceX is gearing up for an unprecedented trip to the International Space Station on May 20, which will be the first such visit by a commercial spacecraft.

WEB SITE: www.spacex.com

SpaceX

Boeing Delta IV

COMPANIES: Boeing Co. of Chicago and Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas.

THE BASICS: An interesting pairing. Boeing is one of the oldest companies in aerospace with a corporate history going back to the Mercury missions. Bigelow is a pioneer in the private space business that is developing a commercial space station/hotel. Boeing has its own much-launched rocket family, the Delta, and also is partners with Lockheed Martin Corp. in a firm that launches Delta and Atlas rockets.

WEB SITES: www.boeing.com, www.bigelowaerospace.com

Boeing Corp.

Boeing Delta II

COMPANIES: Boeing Co. of Chicago and Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas.

THE BASICS: Boeing has its own much-launched rocket family, the Delta, and also is partners with Lockheed Martin Corp. in a firm that launches Delta and Atlas rockets. Seen here, a Delta II blasts off.

WEB SITES: www.boeing.com, www.bigelowaerospace.com

Boeing Corp.

Boeing CST-100

COMPANIES: Boeing Co. of Chicago and Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas.

THE BASICS: Boeing propsed this CST-100 crew transfer vehicle as a means to transport crew and cargo to the international space station or future private space stations.

WEB SITES: www.boeing.com, www.bigelowaerospace.com

Boeing

boeing_space_center.jpg

COMPANIES: Boeing Co. of Chicago and Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas.

THE BASICS: Boeing and Bigelow are working on Space Complex Alpha, a commercial space station. Six nations including the UK and Japan have already signed up.

WEB SITES: www.boeing.com, www.bigelowaerospace.com

Boeing/Bigelow

Orbital Minotaur

COMPANY: Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia.

THE BASICS: One of the first private space companies. It has its own in-use rocket family, Taurus, which launches from Wallops Island, Virginia. It also has a demonstration contract for private cargo with NASA.

WEB SITE: www.orbital.com

Orbital Sciences Corp.

Orbital Taurus

COMPANY: Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia.

THE BASICS: An Orbital Taurus rocket blasts off. The company bills its cheap rockets as a reliable means of launching small satellites into orbit.

WEB SITE: www.orbital.com

Orbital Sciences Corp.

Orbital Taurus II

COMPANY: Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia.

THE BASICS: An Orbital Taurus II rocket, which launches from Wallops Island, Virginia, awaits blast off.

WEB SITE: www.orbital.com

Orbital Sciences Corp.

Orbital Pegasus

COMPANY: Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia.

THE BASICS: The three-stage Pegasus rocket seen here is used by commercial, government and international customers to deploy small satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit.

WEB SITE: www.orbital.com

orbital_rocket.JPG

COMPANY: Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia.

THE BASICS: The two stage Antares rocket is scheduled to make its first flight in August 2012.

WEB SITE: www.orbital.com

Orbital

Lockheed Martin Atlas

COMPANY: Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Maryland, or as part of United Launch Alliance of Denver.

THE BASICS: Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin has a long history in manned space and has its own family of decades-old rockets, the Atlas. It could compete on its own or as part of the United Launch Alliance, which is a joint venture with Boeing that launches unmanned commercial rockets.

WEB SITES: www.lockheedmartin.com and www.ulalaunch.com

Artist's rendering of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle on a deep space mission.

COMPANY: Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Maryland, or as part of United Launch Alliance of Denver.

THE BASICS: NASA recently announced a plan to develop a new Orion deep space vehicle, based on an earlier Lockheed capsule concept, to send astronauts on expeditions to an asteroid, and then on to Mars. 

WEB SITES: www.lockheedmartin.com and www.ulalaunch.com

NASA

atlas_launch.JPG

COMPANY: Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Maryland, or as part of United Launch Alliance of Denver.

THE BASICS: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket blasts off from Space Launch Complex-41 marking the 60th launch for ULA in just over five years.

WEB SITES: www.lockheedmartin.com and www.ulalaunch.com

Lockheed/ULA

Who Will Build NASA's Space Taxis?

With the end of NASA's space shuttle program, the space agency will rely on others for travel to space. Here are the leading companies and their current generation space taxi systems.

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