This story originally appeared on Houston Public Media.
On Thursday, NASA revealed the winners of multi-billion dollar contracts to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station. Three commercial companies have been selected by NASA to resupply the International Space Station through 2024.
NASA’s Sam Scimemi says they’re extending the contracts of two companies, and adding a third: “Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia; Sierra Nevada of Sparks Nevada; and SpaceX of Hawthorne, California.”
ISS Program Manager Kirk Shireman says the companies will have a minimum of six missions each, beginning in late 2019. “Each company’s missions are unique, and that’s one of the great things about this contract — NASA can select any mix of missions from those companies’ offerings that best meet ISS requirements for a given year,” he says.
Shireman says having three supply companies allows NASA to mix-and-match according to need. “It really provides a flexibility to NASA and the International Space Station program to order up the type of, the mix of pressurized, unpressurized, return and disposal that we need at any given time,” Shireman says.
The supply missions will deliver food, water and science experiments to the orbiting lab 220 miles above Earth, as well as return experiments and discarded items. NASA’s hiring of commercial companies comes after years of relying on the space shuttle, which was retired in 2011.
— NASA (@NASA) January 14, 2016