SpaceX is doing it. The company created by PayPal/Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk, is going to send people into space.
The company became the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station in May, and now NASA has chosen SpaceX (via a $440 million contract) to complete final modifications to prepare its Dragon spacecraft for human transport.
“This is a decisive milestone in human spaceflight and sets an exciting course for the next phase of American space exploration,” said Musk. “SpaceX, along with our partners at NASA, will continue to push the boundaries of space technology to develop the safest, most advanced crew vehicle ever flown.”
Modifications that SpaceX will make to Dragon, include making room for 7 astronauts, a “breakthrough” propulsive landing system for gental ground touchdowns on legs, refinements/testing of “essential aspects” of the craft’s design (such as life support systems and an advanced cockpit design), and what the company calls “the most technically advanced launch escape system ever developed”. That system would include “powered abort possibilities from launch pad to orbit.”
The company expects its first manned flight to happen in 2015.
NASA has also reached agreements with Sierra Nevada and Boeing as part of its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, which has the goal of making commercial human spaceflight available. The deal with Sierra Nevada is for $212.5 million, and the Boeing deal is worth $460 million.