NASA awards space taxi contract to Boeing and SpaceX

NASA has awarded the highly-anticipated space taxi contract to Boeing and SpaceX,  a move which will end the agency’s reliance on Russian technology to transport U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station.

The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract aims to restore an American capability to launch astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station by the end of 2017. Since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, American astronauts have been transported to space on Russian-built Soyuz vessels.

"We know that going to space is hard," said Kathy Lueders, NASA's Commercial Crew program manager, during a press conference at Kennedy Space Center. "NASA and aerospace industry have accomplished hard things in the past."

In addition to SpaceX and Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin were all in the running for the $6.8 billion contract.

During the press conference, Lueders explained that NASA's deals with Boeing and SpaceX are worth $4.2 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively. "There's a maximum of 6 missions under that contract value," she added.

Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft, which recently completed its critical design review of integrated systems, was at the core of the company’s bid. SpaceX's Dragon craft led its bid.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers