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NASA administrator visits SpaceX HQ for Crew Dragon check-in

Jim Bridenstine to meet with Elon Musk, commercial crew astronauts

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket inside the company's hangar at Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on Dec. 18, 2018, ahead of the Demo-1 uncrewed flight test targeted for January 17, 2019. (Image: SpaceX)

SpaceX hosted NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Thursday at its California headquarters for an update on the company's progress with its astronaut capsule Crew Dragon, which will carry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

The visit comes after SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and the administrator had a public back and forth over delays with the commercial crew program.

The night before Musk gave a presentation on SpaceX's progress developing its interplanetary spaceship, Starship, Bridenstine took to Twitter to remind SpaceX and Boeing of their commitment to launching American astronauts under NASA's Commercial Crew program.

Six days later, Bridenstine said in another tweet he and Musk had a "great" phone call and he would visit SpaceX.

According to NASA, Bridenstine visited the Hawthorne, California, facility "to see the progress the company is making to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station from American soil as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Program."

He toured the facility and then took questions from reporters, along with Musk, and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who will be the first crew members to fly on Crew Dragon. The astronauts had to leave the Q&A session early to catch a flight.

NASA is paying Boeing and SpaceX to develop independent astronaut spacecraft. The U.S. Space Agency has been paying Russia more than $80 million a seat to fly its astronauts to the space station since the end of the space shuttle program.

SpaceX had a successful uncrewed test flight of Crew Dragon to the space station in March, but, during a ground test the capsule was destroyed.

The first crewed launch with Behnken and Hurley has not been scheduled, however, Musk said SpaceX could be ready for it in around 10 weeks.

"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," Musk said in a tweet.

SpaceX also has to complete an in-flight abort test. The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft that will be used for the abort test arrived in Cape Canaveral earlier this month.

Boeing officials said this week the company is targeting Dec. 17 for the first launch of CST-100 Starliner on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Both companies are working toward earning NASA’s certification to carry astronauts on board.


About the Author:

Emilee Speck

Emilee is a digital journalist for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com, where she writes about space and Central Florida news. Previously, Emilee was a space writer and web editor for the Orlando Sentinel and a producer at the Naples Daily News. Emilee is a Space Coast native and graduate of the University of North Florida journalism program.

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