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NASA and SpaceX agree commercial crew development is the "highest priority"



LAS CRUCES, N.M. – NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk eased two weeks of tension between them Oct. 10.

Bridenstine toured SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California, and told media afterwards that they were carrying astronauts to the International Space Station, including SpaceX's Crew Dragon, what his highest priority.

"We have, right now, a lot under development. American astronauts on American soil, "Bridenstine said.

But I want to tell you, and Elon and I are in the process of agreeing that this is the highest priority. Less than two weeks earlier, Bridenstine appeared to SpaceX's commitment. In a Sept. 27 statement, Musk provided an update on the company's Starship next-generation launch system.

"NASA expects to see the same level of enthusiasm On the investments of the American taxpayer, Crew said: "What's the point?" "It's time to deliver."

Hawthorne said they were based on a "realism" on a number of agency programs, not just commercial crew. "What we're trying to do is back to a day where we have a realistic cost and schedule," he said. "I was signaling ̵

1; and I have not done it right to SpaceX but to all of our contractors – that we need more realism built into the development of timelines."

Musk said that many of the crew's Dragon delays could be linked to Funding shortfalls in the early years of the program, although recent years Congress has fully funded NASA's requests. "Crew Dragon is absolutely the overwhelming priority" at SpaceX, with just about 5% of the company working on Starship.

, Musk previously said that in-flight abort test of the vehicle, where the crew uses its throne to escape a Falcon 9 rocket in flight, is scheduled for late November or early December. Demo-2 delivered to Florida, by the end of the year.

"If everything goes according to plan, it would be in the first quarter of next year," Bridenstine said of demo-2. However, he added, "There are still things we can learn, or could learn, that could be challenging."

At a separate presentation Oct. 10 at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) here, both Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA's commercial crew program, and John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for commercial programs at Boeing's space exploration division, said they were targeting A crewed test flight of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner in the first quarter of 2020. That schedule depends on the success of a pad. 17.

Besides the in-flight abort test and a static-fire test of Dragon's abort thrusters crew – a test that, in April, destroyed the crew Testing the Parachutes for Crew Dragon. SpaceX recently moved to a new parachute design, called the Mark 3, that Musk said is safer than the Mark 2 parachutes that had been tested for Crew Dragon.

"We think the Mark 2 parachutes are safe, but the Mark 3 parachutes are possibly 10 times safer, "Musk said. The Mark 3 parachutes are, in my opinion, the best parachutes ever, by a lot. "The Mark 3 parachutes, he said," Much more and more changes in stitching patterns to higher loads. "

Bridenstine said that both SpaceX and NASA are "committed as a team" to the new Mark 3 design. "We need to get the Mark 3 now consistent, repeatable performance," he said. That includes as many as 10 drop tests through the end of the year to compare its performance to the mark 2.

"We ' "Just going back to the marrow 3 parachutes," Musk said.

While Bridenstine was previously critical of SpaceX's emphasis on starship, Hawthorne said he hoped the company was successful with it. Starship is successful, "he said, noting partnerships between the company and agencies on the use of Starship.

" To be clear, we want commercial crew to happen at the earliest possible point, "he emphasized. "But we want all our business partners, all of our partners, to be successful in going further and doing more."


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