Report: NASA and SpaceX agree commercial crew development is the “highest priority”

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Report: NASA and SpaceX agree commercial crew development is the “highest priority”
Report: NASA and SpaceX agree commercial crew development is the “highest priority”

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine eased two weeks of tension between them Oct. 10, saying they were on the same page regarding development of commercial crew systems.

“This is a big deal for our country, we can’t get it wrong and in fact, we have to get it right,” Bridenstine said, standing with Musk in front of a clean room where Crew Dragon spacecraft are assembled.

“These are key messages, that we believe it can be done in the first quarter of next year, but we are not going to take any undue risk because the safety of our astronauts and the success of the mission is the highest priority. And remember, this first flight with a crew is a test flight.”

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Bridenstine’s visit came less than two weeks after Musk showed off SpaceX’s futuristic new Starship launcher in south Texas, a prototype of a new rocket system he says will eventually replace the company’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters.

The day before the event, Bridenstine posted a tweet many interpreted as a jab of sorts at SpaceX, implying the company needed to focus more on its NASA-funded Crew Dragon astronaut ferry ship, which has encountered technical problems and delays.

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“I am looking forward to the SpaceX announcement tomorrow,” Bridenstine tweeted. “In the meantime, Commercial Crew is years behind schedule. NASA expects to see the same level of enthusiasm focused on the investments of the American taxpayer. It’s time to deliver.”

At the Starship event and again Thursday, Musk said SpaceX was only devoting about 5 percent of the company’s resources on the new launch system and that Crew Dragon remains the California rocket builder’s top priority.

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“Crew Dragon is absolutely the overwhelming priority,” he assured Bridenstine Thursday.

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