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NASA will partner with Boeing and SpaceX to build commercially owned and operated "space taxis" to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, ending U.S. dependence on Russia for rides, officials said Tuesday.The U.S. space agency also considered a bid by privately owned Sierra Nevada Corp., but opted to award longtime aerospace contractor Boeing and California's SpaceX with contracts valued at a combined $6.8 billion to develop, certify and fly their seven-person capsules. The awards position Boeing and SpaceX to be ready for commercial flight services in 2017, said Kathy Leuders, manager for NASA's Commercial Crew program.Boeing's CST-100 spaceship would launch aboard Atlas 5 rockets, built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing.Boeing and SpaceX have won most of NASA's development funds.
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