Speed Reads

Space Race

Boeing appears primed to beat SpaceX for massive NASA space taxi contract

Three private companies are vying for multibillion-dollar NASA contracts to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station, replacing America's reliance on Russian shuttles. The contracts, to be announced as early as Tuesday, will probably go primarily to aerospace giant Boeing Corp., not Elon Musk's SpaceX, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing interviews with government and aerospace-industry officials.

Many analysts expected the newer, more entrepreneurial SpaceX to get the bulk of the contracts, but NASA and the White House believe that Boeing is less risky and more likely to be ready to transport astronauts within three years, The Journal says. NASA engineers are also more comfortable with Boeing, since the company has worked with NASA for decades. "They know the customer and what the customer wants to hear," one former NASA official tells The Journal.

SpaceX will probably beat out the third competitor, Sierra Nevada Corp., for a handful of smaller contracts. Boeing's CST-100 manned capsule would be launched into space on older Atlas V rockets; SpaceX has developed several rockets and the Dragon manned capsule from the ground up over the past decade. The biggest change in this round of contracts, though, is that NASA will probably hire two different companies, creating competition in American space travel for the first time. Read more about the politics at The Wall Street Journal.