Space the Final Frontier

SpaceX Lands $440M. NASA Contract to Develop Space Shuttle Replacement

Elon Musk ascends another step on his personal stairway to heaven.
 SpaceX Lands $440M. NASA Contract to Develop Space Shuttle Replacement

That does look a little cramped. (Photo: spacex.com)

Good news for anyone who dreams of retiring to a ranch on Mars: Elon Musk’s aerospace startup, SpaceX, just landed a $440 million NASA contract to develop the Space Shuttle’s successor and get some real, live American astronauts back into space. That would mean, for instance, no more hitching rides with the Russians.

According to a statement the company released earlier today:

“This is a decisive milestone in human spaceflight and sets an exciting course for the next phase of American space exploration,” said SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk. “SpaceX, along with our partners at NASA, will continue to push the boundaries of space technology to develop the safest, most advanced crew vehicle ever flown.”

SpaceX has 2015 circled on the calendar for its first manned spaceflight, which seems ambitious until you realize that hey, they’ve made it this far. (Thanks again, PayPal!) Plus, the Dragon capsule is already operational, ferrying cargo to the International Space Station, and both Dragon and the Falcon rocket were designed to carry human crew.

But Mr. Musk’s personal equivalent of Stark Industries isn’t the only contender to receive a sudden injection of cash. Boeing received $460 million, and Sierra Nevada got $212.5 million for Sierra Nevada. The goal is to have American astronauts back in space within five years. Reports NBC News:

The next phase of NASA’s commercial spaceflight effort — known as Commercial Crew Integrated Capability, or CCiCap — calls for these three companies to take their design and testing program through a series of milestones by May 2014. Optional milestones could lead to crewed demonstration flights in later years.

Surely there’s some way we can pre-order tickets, perhaps on an installment plan?

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com