Joint NASA, SpaceX mission to send US astronauts to international space station will take longer than expected, officials say – San Bernardino Sun

October 11, 2019 in San Bernandino


It will likely take a little longer than expected to send U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Thursday, Oct. 10.

Bridenstine toured SpaceX’s Hawthorne facility with Musk on Thursday for a progress report on the mission, known as Crew Dragon Demo II. Space officials had said for much of this year that the mission — which will mark the first time in eight years astronauts have headed to the space station from U.S. soil — would be ready by the end of 2019. But during the tour, Bridenstine said that if tests go according to plan in the coming weeks, the mission could now occur as early as the first quarter in 2020.

He did not provide an exact date.

When the astronaut crew was announced at SpaceX last August, they planned to complete the crewed mission by April 2019.

Sending astronauts to the space station would be the Hawthorne aerospace company’s first manned mission to space, although it has sent capsules to resupply the space station 19 times so far.

Both Bridenstine and Musk told reporters that no matter how long it took, safety was their highest priority.

“We’re going to get it done,” Musk said. “We’re going to get it done soon and we’re going to get it done right.”

Bridenstine, for his part, said sending manned missions to the space station was NASA’s No. 1 goal.

“This is a big deal for our country,” Bridenstine said. “We can’t get it wrong.”

During a press conference with media Thursday, astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken joined Bridenstine and Musk on the floor of the SpaceX rocket assembly room. Behind them, within a sterile glass enclosure, engineers tinkered on the Crew Dragon capsule with its outer shell removed — revealing dozens of hoses and valves.

With the two astronauts standing beside him, Bridenstine said the agency will not take any chances with human cargo.

“We are not going to rush it,” the administrator said.

Bridenstine and Musk also described a series of tests involving static firing of the rocket’s engines — meaning the rocket wouldn’t actually go anywhere — and a high-altitude abort test that must take place before the Crew Dragon capsule can be certified to carry human astronauts. The most crucial tests, they said, involved the parachutes that enable the spacecraft to land safely back on Earth.

SpaceX, Musk said, was switching to a stronger parachute design that will need to be tested at least 10 more times before engineers were satisfied with its safety.



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