NASA will get nearly $6 billion to encourage private companies to launch their own spacecraft according to the US President's new budget proposed today
The US space agency would receive $5.9 billion according the 2011 Federal budget proposal, announced by President Baraka Obama on Monday.
Under the plan, NASA would pay the companies to carry US astronauts to the International Space Station and other destinations in orbit.
A strengthened U.S. commercial space launch industry will bring needed competition, act as a catalyst for the development of other new businesses capitalizing on affordable access to space, help create thousands of new jobs and help reduce the cost of human access to space, the White House said.
Proponents of private space flight point out the parallel with the early days of air travel, when private airlines had a guaranteed customer in the U.S. government to deliver airmail.
NASA would then be a guaranteed customer for the private space companies through 2020.
The move comes as the President cut NASA's own mission to the moon, dubbed the Constellation program, which Obama called over budget, behind schedule and lacking in innovation.
With Constellation cancelled, it's Ares I rocket is also put on hold as well, which was suppose to power NASA's future missions and propel astronaut's even deeper into space.
The move is still pending approval from congress.
If implemented, NASA would be fundamentally changed, becoming an agency that no longer operates its own aircrafts. But the move could jumpstart a growing aerospace industry.
One likely competitor is Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX for short. Started by PayPal founder Elon Musk, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket shows promise, though it has yet to have its first launch.
Another likely competitor, United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has decades of experience building space hardware for NASA.