Special Report: The Private Space Taxi Race

Dragon Spacecraft in Orbit Illustration
Artist’s rendition of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft with solar panels fully deployed on orbit. (Image credit: SpaceX)

In the wake of last year's space shuttle retirement, NASA is working with commercial space companies to develop private space taxis to carry cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.

So far, two companies — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Orbital Science Corp. — have won billions in funding to ferry food, supplies and scientific experiments to the space station on unmanned spacecraft. Those companies, as well as Blue Origin, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corp., are also working under contracts to develop manned vehicles capable of flying astronauts to and from the orbiting outpost. On Aug. 3, 2012, NASA announced the winners of the newest round of funding to develop private spaceships capable of carrying astronauts to low-Earth orbit: SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada.

Here's a look at the major players in the race to build private spaceships for use by NASA and others:


Gallery: Dragon, SpaceX's Private Spacecraft
Photos and illustrations of SpaceX's Dragon capsule, designed to carry cargo, and eventually, crew

Gallery: Orbital Sciences' Cygnus Spaceship & Antares Rocket
See photos and images of Orbital Sciences' entry into the private spaceflight race, the Antares rocket and Cygnus capsule.

Video: Space X's Quest For Rocketry's Holy Grail
Re-usable rockets, Space Station deliveries and missions to Mars are part of the vision for commercial space pioneer and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. The rocket mogul talks about his company's far reaching Space goals

Top 10 Fantasy Spaceships Headed for Reality
With NASA's iconic space shuttles retired for good, here's a look at new private ships soon to be reality.

Articles and Features:

Thursday, April 26 - Part 4

Secretive Blue Origin Pins Spaceflight Hopes on Reusable Rockets
Blue Origin wants to fly under the radar all the way into space. 



Blue Origin's Secretive Space Vehicle Explained -Infographic
Blue Origin has revealed little about its mysterious biconic space vehicle design. See what is known in this SPACE.com look.



Photos: Glimpses of Secretive Blue Origin's Private Spaceships
See tantalizing spaceship photos from the secretive commercial space company Blue Origins.



Blue Origin’s Vertical Rocket Takes Hop - Video
See private spaceship builder Jeff Bezos’s vertical rocket take a short hop during a 2011 test flight by his company Blue Origin.

Wednesday, April 25 - Part 3

New Private Space Plane Aims to Pick Up Where NASA's Shuttles Left Off
The new spaceship being built by private aerospace firm Sierra Nevada Corp. may look like a miniature space shuttle, but while the design takes cues from the past, company officials are hoping this vehicle shepherds in a new era of commercial human spaceflight.


Gallery: Meet Dream Chaser, a Private Space Plane
See photos and images of Sierra Nevada Corp.'s new Dream Chaser space plane, a private winged spaceship.




Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Space Plane - Infographic  
Sierra Nevada Corporation will use its Dream Chaser space plane to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. See how it works in this SPACE.com infographic.


Dream Chaser Space Plane's NASA Roots - Video
See how Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser space plane is based on NASA's HL-20 concept vehicle.

Tuesday, April 24 - Part 2

Boeing's Private Space Taxi to Take Flight by 2016
With NASA's space shuttle fleet now permanently grounded, aerospace giant Boeing is aiming to fly astronauts to the International Space Station aboard a new private spaceship as early as 2015 or 2016, company officials say.


Boeing's Private Space Capsule: CST-100 Infographic 
Boeing is developing the CST-100 space capsule to ferry astronauts into Earth orbit and the International Space Station.



Future Human-Rated Spacecraft Gets Drop Test
Boeing and partner Bigelow Aerospace dropped their Crew Space Transportation (CST-100) spacecraft from 11,000 feet and it successfully parachuted down to the Delamar Dry Lake Bed in Nevada on April 3rd, 2012.


Boeing's New Spacecraft - Video  
Boeing is advancing plans for its new capsule-based spaceship, designed to ferry people to and from the ISS and future private space stations. The capsule design is part of an effort to replace the retiring space shuttle fleet.

Monday, April 23 - Part 1

As Shuttles Head to Museums, NASA Counts on Private Astronaut Taxis
With NASA's oldest and most-flown space shuttle now delivered to its museum retirement home, the commercial future of American human spaceflight is taking center stage.


Private Spaceflight Company SpaceX Has Lofty Goal: Help Save Humanity
SpaceX plans to launch a historic demonstration mission to the International Space Station next week, but the company's ambitions extend far beyond low-Earth orbit.


How SpaceX's Dragon Space Capsule Works (Infographic)
See inside SpaceX's private Dragon space capsule and Falcon 9 rockets in this SPACE.com infographic.

Recent stories:

1st Private Spaceship to Visit Space Station Aims for May 7 Launch

New Delay for 1st Private Spaceship Launch to Space Station 

1st Private Mission to Space Station Set to Launch April 30  
A private spaceship mission to the International Space Station is on track for a planned April 30 launch, which will mark a historic first for the orbiting laboratory, NASA officials announced today (April 16).

Space Station Crew Set to Welcome 1st Private Cargo Ship
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are preparing for the historic arrival of a privately built robot cargo ship, the first ever to visit the orbiting laboratory, later this month.

Private Antares Rocket Segment Set for Launch Pad Test  
Orbital Sciences Corp. rolled the first stage of its Antares rocket to the launch pad on April 11, 2012, for testing and checking.

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Space.com Staff
News and editorial team

Space.com is the premier source of space exploration, innovation and astronomy news, chronicling (and celebrating) humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier. Originally founded in 1999, Space.com is, and always has been, the passion of writers and editors who are space fans and also trained journalists. Our current news team consists of Editor-in-Chief Tariq Malik; Editor Hanneke Weitering, Senior Space Writer Mike Wall; Senior Writer Meghan Bartels; Senior Writer Chelsea Gohd, Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova and Staff Writer Alexander Cox, focusing on e-commerce. Senior Producer Steve Spaleta oversees our space videos, with Diana Whitcroft as our Social Media Editor.