Washington: NASA has plans to spend US dollars 1.6 billion over the next two years in a bid to bolster industry efforts to develop "space taxis", a media report said.
   
The US space agency will be looking for complete systems - launchers, spaceships, mission operations and ground support - to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station by the middle of the decade.
   
The money will supplement investments that private firms are making to develop commercial space transportation services, the report said.
   
US President Barack Obama has requested US dollars 850 million for NASA's so-called Commercial Crew initiative for the year beginning October 1. The Senate Appropriations
Committee last week offered US dollars 500 million.
   
With the US space shuttles retired, the US is dependent on Russia to fly its astronauts to the space station, a US dollars 100 billion project of 16 nations that orbits about 225 miles above Earth. Russia charges more than US dollars 50 million a person, including training and support services.
   
A Russian cargo ship failed last month to reach orbit after a launch accident, exposing the vulnerability of having only one way for crew to fly to the space station. The Progress rocket, which was carrying a cargo capsule of food and fuel, and the Soyuz booster that carries crew uses nearly identical upper-stage motors.
   
China, the only other country that has flown people in orbit, is not a member of the space station program.
   
"Right now, we have a single-string failure for a US dollars 100 billion national lab. Every year we do not have a commercial crew capability, the station is at risk," NASA commercial spaceflight development director, Phil McAlister, was quoted as saying.

(Agencies)