After the retirement of the Shuttle program, NASA will begin flying along with – and funding – multiple “commercial crews” including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin group and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. NASA is paying out $270 million to SpaceX, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada (not the beer) and Boeing. This program, begun in 2009 and is now vitally important as it pairs NASA’s scientists and astronauts with commercial crews to perform spaceflights.
There are two more scheduled spaceflights for the remaining shuttles.
NASA already works with Russia’s space program and has booked 12 flights between now and 2016. These “commercial” flights will replace the regular shuttle missions and hopefully bring the commercialization of space flight closer to a common reality.
“The next American-flagged vehicle to carry our astronauts into space is going to be a U.S. commercial provider,” Ed Mango, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, said in a statement. “The partnerships NASA is forming with industry will support the development of multiple American systems capable of providing future access to low-Earth orbit.”