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Space Travel Companies Compete for NASA Contract

Four private space travel companies, including two with ties to Texas, are competing for a NASA contract that will have them ferrying astronauts to space "like a taxi." NASA will announce the winner of the contract in the coming weeks.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, right, at the return of the Dragon spacecraft with NASA chief Charles Bolden, left, on June 13, 2012.

Two private space travel companies working to launch shuttles out of Texas are competing for the same NASA contract that is expected to be handed out in the coming weeks.

The contract, called the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability, will hire a private company to carry astronauts to space. NASA said the service is similar to “getting a taxi ride,” and four companies have spent the past few months pitching their shuttles and services to NASA.

Blue Origin, funded by Amazon CEO and billionaire Jeff Bezos, and SpaceX, funded by billionaire investor Elon Musk, are two of the four private companies competing for the project. Both are working to launch shuttles out of Texas.

The Boeing Company and the Sierra Nevada Corporation are also pursuing the contract from NASA.

In 2011, NASA retired its space shuttle fleet. The United States is currently paying Russia $70.7 million per seat for rides to the International Space Station. NASA will likely pay much less for the rides from whatever private company it chooses. In a blog post earlier this week, NASA said the contract would free up resources and energy for the space exploration agency and allow it to focus on more ambitious projects — such as a flight to Mars.

“In late August or September, the agency will select the company or companies that will build an operational space transportation system," NASA said in its post. “NASA has not specified a set number of awards under [Commercial Crew Transportation Capability].”

Earlier this summer, SpaceX announced it was choosing Brownsville as the future home of a commercial launch facility. The state put up $15.3 million for the project. The shuttle SpaceX is pitching for NASA's contract launches out of California.

Several hundred miles away from SpaceX’s planned Brownsville location, Bezos’ Blue Origin has it’s own developing launch site in West Texas.

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