Elon Musk and NASA chief play nice in person after SpaceX kerfuffle


Both as a public show of solidarity and perhaps to also check that things are proceeding as scheduled, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine made a tour of SpaceX's facilities and made plenty of joint statements on that front.

NASA wants private American vehicles to end this dependence and has been encouraging their development via its Commercial Crew Program.

NASA's commercial crew program dates to September 2014 when the agency awarded SpaceX and Boeing $6.8 billion in contracts to resume US flights to the space station.

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.

Apart from a display of unity, SpaceX and NASA were expected to update journalists on Thursday on the Crew Dragon launch schedule and technical difficulties, including concerns over parachutes and an investigation into an explosion during a capsule ground test in April. But if all goes according to plan, Bridenstine said he hopes the first test flight with astronauts aboard will take place in the first quarter.

NASA said earlier this year it was considering paying for two more seats to the space station for this fall and the spring of 2020 to ensure US access.

"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 shall be total and hardware on the Cape (Canaveral) by the conclude of December", he added.

The go to follows a dispute during 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 whereas completion of the Crew Dragon undertaking remained delayed.

SpaceX and Boeing Co. have contracts to perform such missions under NASA's commercial crew program, though both have encountered setbacks that have put the companies behind schedule.

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.

But the company successfully launched an unpiloted Crew Dragon to the International Space Station in March.

Bridenstine told reporters on Thursday that a high-altitude abort test of a system created 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.

Under that time frame, the major Starliner manned mission is all nonetheless certain to jog into 2020. The space agency is anxious to stop paying $85 million a pop to use Russia's Soyuz spacecraft for launching its astronauts to the ISS.

Bridenstine sought to bury the hatchet on Thursday, saying he was merely "signaling" to SpaceX and other NASA contractors that "we need more realism built in to our development time frames".