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Boeing said to win NASA space taxi contract

According to the Wall Street Journal, the aerospace giant is likely to beat out SpaceX for the contract, said to be worth more than $3 billion.

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Boeing is said to be the likely winner of NASA's space taxi contract. That would mean its CST-100 capsule could be ferrying people to the International Space Station by 2017. Boeing

Boeing seems set to win a lucrative contract to build space taxis for NASA, potentially beating out rival SpaceX in the process.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Boeing, the Chicago-based aerospace giant, may well be the winner of the competition to build spacecraft that would take astronauts to and from orbit.

Boeing has said in the past that it plans on being able to ferry people into space aboard its CST-100 crew transportation vehicle by next year. SpaceX has become a leader in the private space exploration field, and already has a contract to take equipment to the International Space Station aboard its Falcon 9 spacecraft.

The new contract is essential since NASA shut down its Space Shuttle program in 2011.

Neither NASA, Boeing, nor SpaceX immediately responded to CNET requests for comment Monday afternoon.

The space taxi contract is worth more than $3 billion, reported the Seattle Times last week, which added that the first flights under the program could take place as early as 2017.

Boeing's potential victory would come as a surprise to many, since SpaceX was seen as the favorite, according to the Wall Street Journal, "because of its lower costs and nimbler approach."

The Journal also said that NASA would likely award a smaller contract "as a second source" to either SpaceX or rival Sierra Nevada Corp.

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In May, SpaceX unveiled its Dragon spacecraft, its entry in the space taxi race. Tim Stevens/CNET

NASA may make its official announcement about the contract as early as Tuesday, the Journal wrote, adding that sources told it "Boeing's proposed capsule offers the least risky option, as well as the one most likely to be ready to transport U.S. crews to the International Space Station within three years."

In May, SpaceX unveiled its Dragon space capsule, its entry in the space taxi arena. That announcement was seen at the time as a very big leap forward in the race to bring people into space.

"They've only been around a dozen years, and they've done what most countries have been unable to do: build a rocket that can take heavy payloads to Earth orbit, build a spaceship that can navigate and dock with the Space Station, and then undock, and return to Earth," astronaut Chris Hadfield told CNET in May. "They have a really impressive track record over the last 10 or 12 years, and they've put together a really capable group of people."