NASA is a giant step closer to launching Americans again from U.S. soil.
On Tuesday, the space agency announced it has picked Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few years.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden named the winners of the competition at Kennedy Space Center, next door to where the launches should occur in a few years.
The deal will end NASA’s expensive reliance on Russia to ferry astronauts to the space station. NASA has set a goal of 2017 for the first launch under the program.
Boeing, the veteran of the competitors, would assemble its crew capsules at Kennedy. The new California-based SpaceX is already delivering supplies to the space station; its crew capsule is a version of its cargo carrier.
NASA will pay the companies $6.8 billion — $4.2 billion to Boeing and $2.6 billion to SpaceX.
The third major contender, Sierra Nevada Corp., was developing a mini-shuttle in Colorado.
U.S. astronauts have been riding Russian rockets ever since NASA’s space shuttles retired in 2011.