CAPE CANAVERAL: Nasa plans to use $50 million (R400m) of federal economic stimulus funds to seed development of commercial passenger transportation service to space, agency officials said yesterday.
Aspiring operators will have 45 days to submit proposals.
The US is retiring its space shuttle fleet next year after seven more missions to finish work on the International Space Station.
After that, the US plans to buy rides for astronauts to and from the station from Russia, one of the 16 nations involved in the station programme.
Nasa is spending $500m to help three US firms - Space Exploration Technologies, a privately held company known as SpaceX, and Orbital Sciences Corp - to develop rockets and capsules to deliver cargo to the station.
"It's a little disappointing that (the new programme) is only $50m," SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said. "That is what it costs for a seat on the (Russian) Soyuz." Nevertheless, he hailed the move as a step in the right direction. - Reuters