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article imageUnhappy NASA boss to tour SpaceX facility on Thursday

By Karen Graham     Oct 9, 2019 in Technology
Hawthorne - Elon Musk's SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California will be visited by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Thursday to check the progress of the company after he called it out for being “years behind schedule”.
When SpaceX unveiled its spacecraft designed to carry a crew and cargo to the moon, Mars or anywhere else in the solar system on September 28, 2019, the head of NASA, Jim Bridenstine - effectively accused SpaceX of being distracted by its ambitious Starship program.
At the time, Bridenstine tweeted: “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.”
Musk responded to NASA, tweeting that the delays Bridenstine referred to reflected the industry as a whole. Musk added that less than five percent of the company was working on Starship. “To be clear, the vast majority of our resources are [focused] on Falcon and Dragon, especially Crew Dragon.” Musk said.
The South African-born billionaire told CNN: “Everything in aerospace is eight years behind. Most of the work that is required from now through the flight of NASA astronauts is a long series of safety reviews, so it’s not really hardware related, and it’s really going as fast as we can go. If there’s some way to make it go faster, I would make it go faster.”
A mock up of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is displayed during a media tour of SpaceX headquarters and ...
A mock up of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is displayed during a media tour of SpaceX headquarters and rocket factory in Hawthorne, California
Robyn Beck, AFP
After the tour, SpaceX will host a press conference with Bridenstine, SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk, and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley – the crew for the Demo-2 flight test to the space station. The press conference will be live-streamed on Bridentine’s Twitter account on October 10, at 5 pm EDT.
Crew Dragon in-flight abort test
In the meantime, SpaceX announced today that the Crew Dragon in-flight abort (IFA) - which will demonstrate Crew Dragon's ability to get out of harm's way in the event of a launch emergency - could take place as early as next month, reports Space.com.
The IFA is a critical safety test on the way to a crewed flight to the International Space Station (ISS). During the actual test, a Crew Dragon will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Shortly after liftoff, the capsule will fire up its SuperDraco escape thrusters, which will blast Crew Dragon a safe distance from the rocket.
"All hardware is at the Cape. Need to do static fire and reconfigure for flight. Launch probably late Nov / early Dec," Musk tweeted on October 8.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard  pictured on Februar...
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard, pictured on February 28, 2019 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida
Joel KOWSKY, NASA/AFP/File
The tweets between Bridenstine and Musk - along with the planned tour of the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne - all come down to NASA's concerns over getting a crewed flight to the ISS without having to buy seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft. They have been the only transportation to the ISS since the Space Shuttle program was ended in 2011.
SpaceX was awarded a contract worth $2.4 billion from NASA in 2014 to ferry American astronauts to and from the International Space Station using the capsule and the Falcon 9. Boeing was awarded a similar contract for its capsule called the CST-100 Starliner. All NASA wanted was at least one capsule to be ready by 2017.
Responding to a tweet by Ars Technica's Eric Berger about the upcoming test launch of Crew Dragon, Musk tweeted back, "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."
More about Spacex, NASA, Delays in contracts, Dragon Crew capsule, ISS program
 
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