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NASA to hold briefing with companies vying to carry astronauts into space

April 27, 2011 |  6:18 pm

Launch

Before space shuttle Endeavour’s final launch on Friday, NASA officials plan to discuss what they envision as the next step in manned spaceflight.

The space agency will host a media briefing at 8 a.m. PST on April 28 with the four companies it selected to develop the next generation of rockets and spacecraft for its Commercial Crew Development program.

The briefing will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv.

Last week, NASA handed out $269.3 million in seed money to the companies, which could one day take Boeingcap over the potentially multibillion-dollar job of ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station after the shuttle program is mothballed by the end of the year.

The companies include Hawthorne-based rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, and Boeing Co., which develops spacecraft in Huntington Beach and uses rocket engines made by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in Canoga Park.  

The other two awards were $22 million to Blue Origin, a closely held space venture in Kent, Wash., that is owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, and $80 million to Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nev.

The companies’ technology is still years away before it is astronaut-ready. In the meantime, U.S. astronauts will have no way to travel to the space station other than paying the Russian government $63 million for a ride on its Soyuz rocket.

However, there are still two shuttle launches, starting with space shuttle Endeavour set for Friday at 12:47 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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-- W.J. Hennigan

twitter.com/wjhenn

Photos: At top, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket with its Dragon space capsule lifts off in December from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral, Fla. Credit: Scott Audette/Reuters. At right, artist's rendering of the interior of the Crew Space Transportation-100 space capsule. Credit: Boeing Co.

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