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The contractor who manages the shutte program for NASA, United Space Alliance (USA), has proposed taking over two shuttles and flying them privately for NASA through 2017. Key quote:
USA’s current estimated price tag of $1.5 billion per year would represent a substantial drop from previous funding levels, which have seen shuttle program costs rise as high as $4 billion per year. United Space Alliance says its plan would take advantage of shuttle infrastructure and a workforce already in place. Some shuttle production lines would have to be restarted — for example, the operation that builds the shuttle’s external fuel tanks. But USA says the first commercial shuttle flights could take place in 2013. That would beat the 2016 deadline specified in last year’s legislation, as well as the development schedule laid out by SpaceX and USA’s other commercial competitors.