Hawthorne-based SpaceX has gotten its wish: NASA wants it to send astronauts to space. SpaceX said Friday that it has won a $440M contract with NASA, to develop the successor to the Space Shuttle, to transport American astronauts to space. Delivering astronauts to NASA to space has long been a goal of SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk, as it has been developing its spaceflight capabilities. SpaceX said that it plans to undertake its first, manned flight to space by 2015.
SpaceX said it is in the midst of modifying its Dragon capsule to handle seven astronauts, and what it called the "most technically advanced launch escape system ever developed" to ensure the safety of those passengers. NASA has been without a way to deliver astronauts to space since it retired the Space Shuttle, and has been relying on space on Russian rocketships to deliver its astronauts to the International Space Station. The new contract win comes after a hugely successful launch and docking of SpaceX's spacecraft with the ISS earlier this year.