SpaceX, the privately held spaceflight company that is working to build a commercial rocket to fly astronauts into space, has announced it has won the $1.9 billion contract to build the SpaceX X-37B spacecraft.
The spaceflight firm said in a statement Tuesday that it had been awarded the contract to develop the spacecraft and deliver it to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for testing.
The X-38B spacecraft will be the first fully reusable vehicle to fly into space and has the capability to return to Earth.
SpaceX is also working on an experimental space plane that is designed to take off and land vertically, but the company’s work on the X-39B is being led by its own company.
The company will be developing and flying the X.37B and X.39B spacecraft, which are the two most powerful rocket engines ever built.
The spacecraft is expected to be delivered to the Space Launch System rocket’s final assembly line in 2018.
In December, SpaceX won the first of two key contracts to develop a prototype rocket engine for the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, the commercial space agency that builds the space shuttles that ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
SpaceX was awarded the first round of a $1 billion contract from the Commercial Crew Transportation Technologies Corp. to design and build the company said in its announcement.
That contract will pay for the development of a test vehicle to test the engines and provide an estimate on their performance and reliability, the company added.
Space X was the first to win the contract in 2015, according to SpaceX.
The other two SpaceX rockets that are expected to compete for the contract include the Dragon spacecraft that will ferry astronauts into deep space.
The Dragon spacecraft, named after the mythical dragon god of fire, is scheduled to launch in 2018, but is expected not to launch until 2020.
In June, SpaceX said that it would begin flying crewed flights of the Dragon in 2021.
In addition to the Dragon, SpaceX is also in talks with Virgin Galactic, which is building a space tourism plane.
In July, Virgin Galactic unveiled a prototype of a flying rocket dubbed “Dragon One.”
The rocket is intended to ferry passengers to space stations and beyond.