NASA has approved $400,000 in funding to commercial space companies for the development of commercial launch vehicles for launch of commercial communications satellites, commercial communication and data satellites, and commercial launch services to the International Space Station.
The money will go toward developing the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets for commercial launch missions, the space agency said in a statement.
The $400-million program will help SpaceX and Boeing get to space and the commercial satellite industry.
The companies will each receive $3 million for each launch.
NASA has set aside $300 million for NASA Commercial Resupply Services to help the private companies get their satellites into space.
The program was created by Congress in 2010 as a way to help commercial providers compete against NASA and other federal agencies for space launches.
NASA is expected to award the first commercial launch contracts to Boeing in 2017.
The announcement comes after NASA announced plans to award a commercial satellite contract to SpaceX last month.
The Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA) was approved by Congress last month and requires a NASA commercial satellite launch competition to be held at least once every two years, in 2019 and 2020.
It requires that at least two commercial satellite companies be selected by NASA and then be awarded the contract for the launch.
The commercial launch providers must meet NASA’s space launch safety standards, as well as demonstrate their ability to launch commercial satellites at lower costs than NASA-supplied launch vehicles.
SpaceX and its parent company, Blue Origin, have won two contracts to fly payloads on commercial satellites for NASA in the past, with the first being the Delta 4 rocket that launched the Amos-6 satellite in August.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is designed to help small businesses build and operate commercial spacecraft and the space station.
Commercial crew would provide a cheaper, more reliable, and more convenient means of transporting people and cargo to and from the space center.
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Originally published on Space.com.