NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine attended Thursday's SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, and delivered a speech together with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who boarded the SpaceX commercial crew Dragon- Capsule and the SpaceX CEO will launch Elon Musk.
Bridenstine began with a few brief remarks on the importance and priority of the crew's launch mission. He and Musk agreed that the commercial launch of American astronauts is "the highest priority" of the various projects that both his agency and SpaceX are developing.
He and Musk then went into detail about where the program is now and what to do to get to an actual flight with crew ̵
Musk noted that SpaceX had to have completed 10 successful drop tests to trust the reliability of the Crew Dragon launch system for a crew-up mission. With the newly developed capsule capsule system "in line". According to information from Bridenstine, SpaceX was able to carry out up to 10 drop tests with the Mark 3 system by the end of this year.
This new Mark 3 system has much stronger lines connecting the webs used for its construction, Musk said, switching from nylon to a material called "Xylon" (three or more) more times, said the company CEO. The new version also uses a new stitch pattern compared to Mark 2 for added strength.
Both Musk and Bridenstine wanted to point out that the schedules discussed, including the 2019 manned flight target SpaceX has been working on to date, are "not deadlines" but "the best guess" in Musk's words, based on the current state of affairs. This can change quickly, and Bridenstine added that "there are still things we could learn [in testing]" that could change schedules later than in the first half of next year.
For the product Crew Dragon, Musk SpaceX will produce a new capsule about every three or four months, a rate hoped to "reach a cadence of operational flights to the space station".
Bridenstine also turned to the tweet he published in late September regarding the Starship SpaceX program (see below).
"As a NASA administrator, I've been focused on getting realistic on costs and schedules," he said. "And many of our programs have not met costs and schedules. And that has evolved over time. And many of these programs are, as you know, five years old, ten years old […]. So we're trying to get back to a day when we have realistic costs and schedules, and that's why I signaled, and I did not just do it to SpaceX, but to all of our contractors that we need more realism built into the development timeline , "
Yet Bridentstine made it clear that NASA definitely supports the Starship program, even though it gives priority to the Dragon in the current moment. "I want people to make no mistake: NASA has an interest in making Starship successful," he said, pointing out NASA's recent investment in Starship by funding the "Tipping Point" project.