SpaceX Crew Dragon could fly astronauts to the ISS in early 2020

SpaceX Dragon

As expected, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stopped by SpaceX HQ in California and then did a bit of Q&A with the media while standing next to Elon Musk and two astronauts.

"If everything goes according to plan, it would be in the first quarter of next year", Bridenstine said of the launch.

But he furthermore emphasised NASA's order for astronaut safety, announcing the timeline would possibly well jog.

NASA has contracted SpaceX and Boeing to develop manned capsules that will launch American astronauts to the International Space Station or ISS from U.S. facilities.

The craft will be mounted on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and launched into orbit to test its In-Flight Abort (IFA) functions - the last hurdle it needs to clear before a manned flight. They also referenced the explosion on the test stand earlier this year, with Bridenstine praising SpaceX's "fail fast" model, as long as it includes fixes before rockets actually take flight.

Musk said during the press conference that the newest design of the parachutes, which he referred to as Mark 3 parachutes, are 10 times safer than Mark 2 parachutes and are twice as safe as Apollo's parachutes. With that investigation complete, SpaceX is now proceeding with its own testing schedule and will carry out another flight test in December at the latest.

Both the Boeing and SpaceX capsules have been beset by delays and testing mishaps which have prevented either company from achieving goals for manned orbital missions in 2019.

Bridenstine informed reporters on Thursday high-altitude abort check of a system created to propel the capsule to security within the occasion of an emergency on the way in which to orbit would occur in "short order", although he didn't present a particular date.

It's no secret that NASA is increasingly leaning on commercial partners to meet its various needs, and when it comes to sending humans into space, Boeing and SpaceX are already behind schedule.

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, although the date for its debut manned mission remains uncertain after repeated slips. SpaceX's rise to become a dominant launch services provider 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, said on Wednesday that its own key test of an abort system was slated for November 4, while its unpiloted orbital test flight was set for December 17.

U.S. soil, NASA has been paying Russian Federation about £64million ($80 million) per ticket for rides to the space station.

Bridenstine said the agency was "still buying seats" for ride-alongs aboard Russia's Soyuz as an "insurance policy" against future delays in USA crew capsule development. "So I was signaling - and I haven't done it just to SpaceX but to all of our contractors - that we need more realism built into the development timelines", he said.

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