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NASA to Discuss Progress of Private Space Taxis

Spacex Dragon Capsule Undocking
The private Dragon capsule built by SpaceX is seen at the end of the International Space Station's robotic arm during its undocking on Oct. 28, 2012, in this camera view. The Dragon capsule made the first commercial cargo delivery to the space station for NASA. (Image credit: NASA TV)

NASA will hold a press conference on Wednesday (Jan. 9) to discuss the progress of the agency's Commercial Crew Program, which aims to advance the design and development of new private spaceships to fill the current gap in U.S. human spaceflight capabilities.

The press conference, which begins at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT), will be broadcast live from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website, according to a media advisory. You will be able to watch the webcast live on here.

Speaking in the breifing will be:

-- Phil McAlister, NASA Commercial Spaceflight Development director 

-- Ed Mango, NASA Commercial Crew Program manager 

-- Rob Meyerson, Blue Origin president and program manager 

-- John Mulholland, The Boeing Co. Commercial Programs Space Exploration vice president and program manager 

-- Mark Sirangelo, Sierra Nevada Corp vice president and SNC Space Systems chairman 

-- Garrett Reisman, Space Exploration Technologies Commercial Crew project manager 

NASA hopes a commercially developed vehicle will be ready to carry astronauts to low-Earth orbit by 2017. The United States has lacked a homegrown manned capability since NASA's space shuttle fleet retired in July 2011; it currently relies on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry crews to and from the International Space Station.

Last month, agency officials announced that Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corp. would each receive about $10 million to begin certifying that their respective private spaceflight systems meet NASA requirements for taking crews to and from the ISS.

That was just latest in a series of commercial crew awards granted by NASA over the last few years. In 2010, the agency granted a total of $50 million to five companies, including Boeing and Sierra Nevada. Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX split $315 million in 2011 and $1.1 billion in another round of awards announced this past August.

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