Private and public space explorers join forces.Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and Nasa have signed a memorandum of understanding to co-develop spacecraft.
Virgin Galactic, which aims to have paying customers in low earth orbit within the next two years, will work with Nasa to develop new ways to get satellites into orbit using its reusable spacecraft.
Nasa will share the findings of its Ames Research Centre with Virgin Galactic to aid future development.
"It is a ringing endorsement for the emerging commercial manned space industry, and for Virgin Galactic in particular, from the world's premier space agency," said Virgin Galactic.
"The access to Nasa's Ames Research Centre capabilities and facilities further strengthens Virgin Galactic's leading market position, and will support its twin objectives of safety and commercial viability.
"This is good news for Virgin Galactic and for our customers, suppliers and the industry as a whole."
Nasa is believed to be working with Virgin Galactic on cockpit designs and the plans for the third-generation of its space craft.
While Nasa astronauts will not be flying on the private company's craft, there may be work to be had shuttling equipment and stores into orbit which could then be sent to the International Space Station.
Nasa is already facing problems in transporting equipment into orbit, as the Shuttle is due to end its operational life before its replacement Orion platform is ready for use.