ATLANTA (Reuters) - Boeing Co plans to offer passengers the chance to fly into space on a craft it is developing for travel in low-Earth orbit, the aerospace company said on Wednesday.
Boeing said it reached an agreement with Virginia-based Space Adventures to market passenger seats on commercial flights aboard Boeing's CST-100 space vehicle being developed for NASA.
The spacecraft could carry seven people and fly in low-Earth orbit as soon as 2015, Boeing said. The company added that potential customers could include private individuals, companies, nongovernmental organizations and U.S. federal agencies.
Space Adventures said it had arranged for seven spaceflight participants to fly on eight missions to the International Space Station being built in space by the United States and Russia.
The companies said during a conference call that pricing for the planned space flights had not been set but were expected to be competitive.
Guy Laliberte, founder of Canada's Cirque du Soleil, paid more than $35 million to travel into space last year on a Russian spaceship from Kazakhstan.
The U.S. space shuttle program, which carries astronauts and supplies to the International Space Space, is being shut down next year. President Barack Obama's administration has launched an initiative to replace NASA-owned and operated launch services with commercial space taxis.
Until a replacement vehicle is ready, the United States will be solely dependent on Russia to fly crews to the International Space Station, a $100 billion project involving 16 nations, which has been under construction 220 miles above Earth since 1998.
Russia currently charges NASA about $51 million per seat for a ride on its Soyuz spacecraft. The price goes up to $56 million in 2013.
Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott