After a recent online feud between NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Elon Musk, Bridenstine made a site visit to SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
Just two weeks ago, Bridenstine and Musk had been exchanging messages using their Twitter accounts regarding SpaceX’s continued delay over development on a contract for NASA that’s intended to send US astronauts from US soil in a truly American-made spacecraft to replace the retired the Space Shuttle. Musk is the CEO and founder of SpaceX.
The NASA administrator bristled over Musk’s celebration of his company’s latest development announcement of the deep-space Starship rocket that’s intended to be used to access Mars along with a 100-passenger capacity. Bridenstine noted that SpaceX must also focus on the Crew Dragon space shuttle, which is under contract for NASA.
Jim Bridenstine said: “It’s time to deliver.” Musk responded by pointing out soaring cost overruns on a rival NASA moon rocket dubbed the Space Launch System.
As of the moment, instead of building and operating its own spaceships as NASA did for the space shuttles, which were retired in 2011, the agency has now turned to SpaceX and Boeing to provide the transportation of astronauts through competitive contracts but both companies have been grossly delayed Have been experiencing testing mishaps which have prevented either company from achieving goals for manned orbital missions in 2019.
However, Thursday’s visit might have been as much about smoothing over ruffled feelings as viewing space hardware. Bridenstine also said that they had spoken on the phone after the exchange.
Taking questions from reporters, both men were complimentary toward each other and said they shared the same goals: to launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule as soon as possible, but not before the spacecraft had passed all of the needed tests.
“We’re honored to partner with NASA to make this happen,” Musk said. “This is a dream come true, really.”
NASA is paying SpaceX and Boeing Co £5.5million ($6.8 billion) to build rocket-and-capsule systems to return astronauts to the ISS, an £80billion ($100 billion) orbital research laboratory that flies about 250 miles above Earth.
Over on Twitter, Musk said: “For what it’s worth, the SpaceX schedule, which I’ve just reviewed in-depth, shows Falcon & Dragon at the Cape & all testing done in ~10 weeks.”
He had earlier tweeted: “All hardware is at the Cape.”
“Need to do static fire and reconfigure for flight. Launch probably late Nov/early Dec.”
Furthermore, according to Musk, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will soon be mounted on a Falcon 9 rocket and launched into orbit to test its In-Flight Abort (IFA) functions — the last hurdle it needs to clear before a crewed flight. If all goes to plan, it would be a remarkable turnaround after disaster struck in April, when the capsule erupted into flames as a result of an IFA error.
SpaceX successfully launched an unpiloted Crew Dragon in March to the ISS, although the date for its debut manned mission has up to know been uncertain.
NASA has stopped providing scheduling updates until it names a new associate administrator of human spaceflight operations, agency spokesman Matthew Rydin said.