NASA is hiring engineers at its commercial space agency, but those engineers will not be getting the $1,300 per hour they are paid.
That’s because NASA has a separate engineering program, called Commercial Crew Program, that is paid to engineers from other NASA agencies and foreign countries.
That program has no cap on the number of engineers it can hire, and is intended to supplement the commercial crew program’s $1 billion.
The new hires at NASA, the agency confirmed, will get $842,904 per year in annual bonuses.
NASA said the new hires will begin work this summer and will be paid $822,000 per year starting July 1.
“These new hires represent an exciting opportunity for us to deliver on our core mission of enabling commercial human spaceflight, including on a mission to Mars,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.
“I look forward to welcoming them to NASA as we build upon the successes we’ve seen in recent years with the Commercial Crew program.”
NASA says that engineers at the Commercial Space Transportation Program, which is funded by NASA, will be responsible for building and operating cargo ships and cargo capsules.
The agency said the contractors are expected to complete their work by the end of 2019.
NASA’s Commercial Crew effort has a $2.6 billion goal and is expected to begin in 2022.
The Commercial Spaceflight Partnership (CCSP) is a $1 trillion program that aims to establish human-crewed spacecraft for human missions to Mars, asteroids, and beyond.
This is not the first time NASA has hired engineers to work on its Commercial Crew efforts.
Last year, NASA hired a contractor to build an unmanned space station called Cygnus, and another company is working on a crewed flight to the International Space Station.
Earlier this year, the space agency announced that it would pay engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory $6,400 per hour to develop software for NASA’s Orion spacecraft.
NASA’s Commercial Cargo Program, meanwhile, has been under pressure for years.
In 2015, Congress passed the Commercial Cargo Improvement Act, which requires NASA to increase its commercial crew funding from $1 million to $1 and a half billion per year.
NASA has since increased its funding to $2 billion, but has been criticized for not meeting that goal.
On Monday, NASA announced that the agency will begin awarding contracts for the Commercial Flight Program to a group of international firms, including Boeing, Airbus, and Boeing Aerospace, in a bid to build and test cargo ships.
The contractors are working on projects to build vessels, including a container ship called the CRS-3.
“This announcement is another example of how we’re continuing to drive innovation in the commercial space sector, both through technology development and by advancing the commercialization of U.S. commercial assets,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a written statement.