Plans are underway for the USA to once again start up manned missions into space. Boeing Co. and Space Exploration Technologies are set to split $6.8 billion in federal funding, in a bid to move away from dependency on Russian space flights.

The new long term contract, which is set to ferry astronauts and commercial customers to the International Space Station, will pay up to US$4.2 billion to Boeing and US$2.6 billion to SpaceX. The two companies plan to have a new shuttle completed by 2017, removing the need to use  Russian shuttles which currently costs $70 million per seat. Payments to the two private companies are dependent on their ability to deliver five important milestones which will ensure the shuttles are fit for human transportation. Whilst the companies’ main client is NASA, they are also permitted to sell seats to private individuals, indicating that we could be one step closer to space tourism.

The move comes as tensions between the USA and Russian intensify. In April, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that the US should consider sending crews to space “with a trampoline.” However, Russian and US astronauts are still training together and a US mission from Russia is scheduled for November 23rd this year.