NASA to Make Major Private Space Taxi Announcement Today: Watch Live

NASA will make a major announcement on the future of U.S. human spaceflight today (Sept. 16), and you can watch it live online.

Space agency officials will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT), and could unveil the selection of one or more private space taxis by aerospace companies to move forward on the path toward providing astronaut transportation services to International Space Station for NASA. 

You can watch NASA's commercial crew announcement live on, courtesy of NASA TV.

According to a NASA statement, today's announcement will discuss "the return of human spaceflight launches to the United States. The agency will make the announcement during a news conference from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

NASA's Commercial Crew Program calls for the agency to rely on commercial spacecraft by private spaceflight companies to launch American astronauts on trips to and from the International Space Station by 2017. At the moment, four U.S. spaceflight companies — SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, Boeing and Blue Origin — are all in the running for the crew transportation contracts. 

All of the companies have received some NASA funding to help develop their spacecraft concepts and technologies, with SpaceX, Sierra Nevada and Boeing splitting a total award of $1.1 billion in 2012 to spur their projects. NASA's next stage of the program is known as the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability.

SpaceX (short for Space Exploration Technologies) is based in Hawthorne, California, and was founded in 2002 by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. The company is developing a manned version of its robotic Dragon space capsule to launch on its own Falcon 9 rockets as its bid for NASA's crew contract. SpaceX's manned Dragon vehicle, called Dragon Version 2, is a seven-person capsule and was unveiled in May.

Boeing, meanwhile, is developing its own capsule: the Commercial Space Transportation 100, or CST-100, capsule. That capsule is a seven-person vehicle designed to launch on expendable Atlas 5 rockets. 

The Colorado-based Sierra Nevada Space Systems is building the Dream Chaser space plane, a seven-person spacecraft that will also launch on an Atlas 5 rocket. But instead of choosing the capsule route, Sierra Nevada is building a reusable winged spacecraft that resembles a miniature space shuttle. The project is based on NASA's past research into the HL-20 lifting body concept. 

The secretive company Blue Origin, founded by CEO Jeff Bezos, is building a conical spacecraft called Space Vehicle. It received $22 million NASA funding in 2011 to develop its concept and a spacecraft escape system.

Today's announcement could reveal which U.S. firm (or firms) gets to move ahead in NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Although many people expect that the space agency will tap one company, NASA officials could pick more than one to move on.

But to launch American astronauts into space, Russia's Soyuz capsule is the only vehicle currently available. NASA currently pays about $70 million a seat to fly astronauts to the station on the three-person Soyuz capsules. 

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders and astronaut and former space station crewmember Mike Fincke will take part in the NASA briefing from Florida. The space agency will also host a teleconference for members of the press that will air on NASA's news audio webcast service after the initial briefing.

Visit today at 4 p.m. ET for complete coverage of NASA's U.S. human spaceflight announcement. 

Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramer and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebookand Google+. Original article on

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Miriam Kramer
Staff Writer

Miriam Kramer joined as a Staff Writer in December 2012. Since then, she has floated in weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight, felt the pull of 4-Gs in a trainer aircraft and watched rockets soar into space from Florida and Virginia. She also served as's lead space entertainment reporter, and enjoys all aspects of space news, astronomy and commercial spaceflight.  Miriam has also presented space stories during live interviews with Fox News and other TV and radio outlets. She originally hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where she and her family would take trips to dark spots on the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers every year. She loves to travel and one day hopes to see the northern lights in person. Miriam is currently a space reporter with Axios, writing the Axios Space newsletter. You can follow Miriam on Twitter.