Since retiring the space shuttle program in 2011, NASA has been trying to privatize the U.S. space industry. In 2010, the Obama administration created a public-private partnership plan, called the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), to help the U.S. develop spacecraft that can transport astronauts to the International Space Station and other low-Earth-orbit destinations. NASA has three American partners -- SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada -- on board for the CCP. However, Congress did not provide the space agency with its requested funding for the CCP this year, thus delaying U.S. launches until 2017. In the meantime, NASA struck a $424 million agreement with the Russian Federal Space Agency to continue using its crew transportation services until 2016, with return and rescue services extending through June 2017.
Photo credit: NASA