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WASHINGTON, August 22. /ITAR-TASS/. NASA is expected to announce shortly the conclusion of a new contract on the space shuttle construction for delivering its astronauts to the International Space Station, The Washington Post said on its website on Thursday.
“Ever since the retirement of the space shuttle three years ago, American astronauts have had to hitchhike their way to the International Space Station aboard Russian spaceships,” the newspaper says. “It is an increasingly costly arrangement, which the head of NASA has called “unacceptable", made worse by US-Russian tensions over the crisis in Ukraine.”
“But in the coming weeks, NASA is expected to announce its long-awaited solution: a multibillion-dollar contract to build a US spacecraft, which could help reignite a struggling American space programme,” the article says.
“Instead of paying the Russians more than $70 million a seat to ride their Soyuz spacecraft to the space station, the contract would give the United States the ability, for the first time in years, to launch American astronauts into space from US soil,” the newspaper says.
“The top contenders vying for the NASA contract are what many consider to be two “new-space” companies, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada, and an “old-space” stalwart, Boeing,” the article says.
“While SpaceX and Boeing have developed capsules to take astronauts to space, the third entrant, Sierra Nevada, has developed what is in some ways the most interesting proposal: a “space plane,” which looks like a miniature version of the space shuttle and could land on runways,” according to WP.
According to the newspaper, “Initially, NASA had planned on launching its first astronauts under the commercial crew program by 2015. But budget shortfalls have delayed that until 2017. NASA expects that it would need the space vehicles for about two trips to the ISS a year.”
The newspaper does not disclose this information sources, only saying that Blue Origin, Amazon.com and Washington Post owner Jeffrey P. Bezos’s company, has also been a partner with NASA in the programme.