The U.S. agency has handed Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences Corp.(ORB.N) contracts worth a total $3.5 billion to reach that goal.
Several firms are now jostling for a position in a sector that officials in President Barack Obama’s administration have estimated will be worth $1 billion in 10 years.
To experience weightlessness on Virgin Galactic’s suborbital plane, Brightman will have bought a $200,000 ticket. The firm, an offshoot of British tycoon Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, expects to launch commercial service in late 2013 or 2014.
The singer will be the first space tourist on Russia’s Soyuz spaceship since 2009. Seats on the three-person craft became scarce when NASA mothballed its shuttles, leaving Russian rockets as the only ones capable of carrying crews into orbit.
NASA will double the amount of time an astronaut spends on the orbital station to one year - to lay the groundwork for future missions deeper into space - freeing up seats for tourists from March 2015.
Russian space official Alexei Krasnov said Brightman’s flight would likely take place in the fall of 2015.
Brightman married composer Andrew Lloyd Webber in the 1980s and pursued a chart-topping solo career after they broke up in 1990, bringing classical music to a broader audience and selling millions of records along the way.