Following (some) successful launches and prior rumors of deals, NASA has given SpaceX and Orbital massive contracts to send supplies to the ISS.

The contracts, for $1.6bn and $1.9bn respectively, demand each company to deliver about 20 tons of vital cargo to the International Space Station. The private flights will serve as a temporary holdover during the period between NASA's Shuttle and Constellation programs, sending supplies from 2010 until 2016, at least. Details of this particular contract aside, this does set a precedent for the outsourcing of critical tasks—not just hardware manufacturing—to reputable private companies, so if SpaceX and Orbital pull this off without accidentally rear-ending the ISS or overshooting all of NASA's Tang into the moon, then they could drastically change the nature of the agency. [NASA via Bad Astronomy]