- Title: Manned SpaceX mission will happen in first quarter of 2020: NASA boss
- Date: 11th October 2019
- Summary: HAWTHORNE, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (OCTOBER 10, 2019) (REUTERS) ***WARNING: CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** NASA ADMINISTRATOR JIM BRIDENSTINE AND SPACEX CEO ELON MUSK ARRIVING AT NEWS CONFERENCE (SOUNDBITE) (English) NASA ADMINISTRATOR, JIM BRIDENSTINE, SAYING: "We have right now a lot under development but I will also tell you, and Elon and I are in strong agreement on this, that the one thing that we have under development that is under the highest priority is launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. We have not done that since 2011, the retirement of the space shuttle but we are on the cusp of making that a reality and in order to make that a reality, we're going to need our commercial crew partners and SpaceX is a big, big partner on this project. We need them to be successful, they need us to be successful. This is a great partnership." (SOUNDBITE) (English) SPACEX CEO, ELON MUSK, SAYING: "This human space flight is the reason that SpaceX was created and we're incredibly honored to partner with NASA and we'll make this happen. This is a dream come true, really. Yeah." BRIDENSTINE, MUSK AND ASTRONAUTS (SOUNDBITE) (English) NASA ADMINISTRATOR, JIM BRIDENSTINE, SAYING: "If everything goes according to plan, it would be in the first quarter of next year but remember, and this is the important thing that we have to get right on messaging, there are still things that we can learn or could learn, that could be challenging, that we have to resolve. I'm not saying that's going to happen. I don't know. That's why we test. We have two very important tests coming up plus a whole lot of drop tests for parachutes. Depending on what we learn in those tests will determine whether or not we're going to be able to launch in the first part of next year." ASTRONAUTS (SOUNDBITE) (English) NASA ADMINISTRATOR, JIM BRIDENSTINE, SAYING: "Regardless of whether we make it in the first part of next year is less relevant than the fact that we will make it and when we do make it, between now and then, we need your support and I think that's pretty clear what Elon was getting at. This is a big deal for our country, we can't get it wrong and in fact we have to get it right." BRIDENSTINE, MUSK AND ASTRONAUTS (SOUNDBITE) (English) SPACEX CEO, ELON MUSK, SAYING: "People think parachutes, they look easy but they're definitely not easy and for those that know the history of the Apollo programme, it was actually one of the toughest things in the Apollo programme were the parachutes and it was one of the toughest morale problems because they had so many engineers quit over the parachutes. It's funny to read that and then have the same experience basically. I don't think we've actually had many people quit over it but it is a pretty arduous engineering job to get the parachutes right." MUSK AND BRIDENSTINE SHAKE HANDS AT END OF NEWS CONFERENCE AND LEAVE
- Embargoed: 25th October 2019 00:28
- Keywords: Space X Elon Musk NASA Jim Bridenstine news conference cooperation testing
- Location: HAWTHORNE, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES;
- City: HAWTHORNE, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES;
- Country: USA
- Topics: Science,Space Exploration
- Reuters ID: LVA001B0IOQ4N
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: SpaceX's Crew Dragon astronaut capsule will be ready for its first manned test flight into orbit in the first quarter of next year, provided that "everything goes according to plan" in upcoming tests, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said on Thursday (October 10).
On a visit to the SpaceX headquarters, Bridenstine praised Elon Musk's company for its "fail fast, then fix" approach to spacecraft design after a personal tour and briefing at the sprawling manufacturing plant - a display of unity amid a rare public spat between the two key space figures.
But he also emphasized NASA's concern for astronaut safety, saying the timeline could slip.
"We are not going to take any undue risk," Bridenstine said, standing beside Musk outside a clean room that contained a Crew Dragon capsule.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is paying commercial launch contractors SpaceX and Boeing Co. $6.8 billion to build rocket-and-capsule systems to return astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil for the first time since America's space shuttle program ended in 2011.
Bridenstine's visit to SpaceX headquarters in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne comes as SpaceX works to overcome key technical challenges on the Crew Dragon. SpaceX has so far never flown humans into orbit, only cargo.
Musk and Bridenstine said they were working together through concerns over re-entry parachutes and other technical challenges, some of which were first publicly detailed by Reuters.
"It's a pretty arduous engineering job to get the parachutes right," Musk said, declaring that Crew Dragon's parachutes will have "twice the safety factor" than those used in the Apollo era.
"Testing will be complete and hardware at the Cape (Canaveral) by the end of December," he added.
While Musk and Bridenstine provided few concrete details on their joint investigation into an explosion during a capsule ground test in April, Musk said incidents were inevitable during complex development processes and rigorous testing.
The visit follows a dispute over the last two weeks between Musk and the NASA chief, who bristled at Musk on Twitter for celebrating an unrelated milestone achieved on SpaceX's deep-space Starship rocket while completion of the Crew Dragon project remained delayed.
Musk quickly shot back during a series of interviews, at one point citing a rival NASA moon rocket dubbed the Space Launch System that is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. He also told CNN "most of the work" left to complete on Crew Dragon was related to "a long series of safety reviews" by NASA.
Both the Boeing and SpaceX capsules have been beset by delays and testing mishaps that have prevented either company from achieving goals for manned orbital missions in 2019.
SpaceX successfully launched an unpiloted Crew Dragon in March to the International Space Station, a $100 billion orbital research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
Bridenstine told reporters on Thursday that a high-altitude abort test of a system designed to propel the capsule to safety in the event of an emergency on the way to orbit would happen in "short order," though he did not provide a specific date.
Other testing includes 10 additional mid-air "drop tests" to test parachute resilience and performance, Bridenstine said.
NASA and SpaceX have had a strained relationship at times in recent years. SpaceX's rise to become a dominant launch services provider for satellites over the last decade has been fueled in part by NASA contracts and the agency's transformative strategy to buy services from private companies rather than owning the technology itself.
The top executive for Boeing's rival Starliner program, John Mulholland, told a conference on Wednesday that its own key test of an abort system that propels astronauts to safety during an emergency was slated for Nov. 4, while its unpiloted orbital test flight was set for Dec. 17.
Under that time frame, the first Starliner manned mission is all but certain to slip into 2020.
With no current means of flying astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil, NASA has been paying Russia about $80 million per ticket for rides to the space station.
Bridenstine said NASA was "still buying seats" for ride-alongs aboard Russia's Soyuz as an "insurance policy" against future delays in the crew capsule development.
Asked about his jab at Musk on Twitter, Bridenstine said he was "signaling" to SpaceX and all other NASA contractors that "we need more realism built in to our development time frames."
(Production: Rollo Ross)
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