NASA on track to launch astronauts in 5 years

After retiring space shuttles, NASA inks deals with three firms to develop next-generation spacecraft

NASA announced Friday morning that it's on track to once again launch astronauts into space from U.S. soil within five years.

As part of its strategy to launch astronaut-carrying spacecraft again, NASA has inked deals valued at more than $900 million with three U.S.-based commercial companies -- Sierra Nevada, SpaceX and Boeing -- to design and develop next-generation spacecraft technologies.

The companies will build spacecraft for both government and commercial use.

NASA will have the option to work with any or all of the companies and use their spacecraft to send astronauts into space or low Earth orbit, according to Stephanie Covey, a NASA spokesperson.

"Today, we are announcing another critical step toward launching our astronauts from U.S. soil on space systems built by American companies," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. "We have selected three companies that will help keep us on track to end the outsourcing of human spaceflight and create high-paying jobs in Florida and elsewhere across the country."

NASA retired its own fleet of space shuttles in the summer of 2011.

NASA in May entered a new chapter of space flight when a craft built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) carried about 1,200 pounds of supplies, including student-designed experiments, food and clothing to the International Space Station.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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