NASA announced Tuesday that SpaceX and Boeing snagged contracts worth nearly $7 billion to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts will allow the agency to end its reliance on Russia, which has transported America’s astronauts on a per-seat basis since NASA retired its space shuttles several years ago.
“Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, the hard work of our NASA and industry teams, and support from Congress, today we are one step closer to launching our astronauts from U.S. soil on American spacecraft and ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia by 2017,” NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said. “Turning over low-Earth orbit transportation to private industry will also allow NASA to focus on an even more ambitious mission — sending humans to Mars.”
The maximum value of the contracts are $4.2 billion for Boeing’s CST-100 capsule and $2.6 billion for Space Exploration Technologies’ Crew Dragon.
NASA said the new spacecraft will allow more astronauts to reach the space station, increasing the amount of research that can be carried out on board.
The contracts include at least one crewed flight test with at least one NASA astronaut per company, plus between two and six crewed missions to the space station.
“SpaceX is deeply honored by the trust NASA has placed in us,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a statement. “We welcome today’s decision and the mission it advances with gratitude and seriousness of purpose. It is a vital step in a journey that will ultimately take us to the stars and make humanity a multi-planet species.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.