SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed that if everything goes according to the plan, SpaceX could fly NASA astronauts to the space station as soon as the first quarter of next year.
NASA has had to rely on Russia’s Soyuz rocket for flying astronauts to the space station which proved itself to be very expensive. However, with SpaceX’s Commercial Crew program, the same can be done for much less, around $50 million per seat.
The timeline or flying astronauts has repeatedly been pushed back since 2017 owing to some technical difficulties on SpaceX’s part. After much delay, both Musk and Bridenstine mentioned that the Commercial Crew program is almost ready.
There is also the possibility of further delay if something goes wrong while doing the test runs, but Bridenstine is hopeful that, “Regardless of whether we make it in the first part of next year is less relevant than the fact that we will make it.” It should be noted that previously, Musk and Bridenstine got into a tiff regarding the delay of the timeline for the mission.
SpaceX is facing major two issues when it comes to the launched rocket. First, the engine which exploded in April is linked with the small engines called abort thrusters. The company had to redesign the whole engine to sort the problem out to make sure that such a problem does not occur the second time.
Secondly, SpaceX is facing problems with parachute testing. For the new parachutes, SpaceX has changed the materials and the stitching patterns and is twice as safe as NASA’s Apollo parachutes as claimed by Musk himself.
If everything goes smoothly, SpaceX will fly the NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS by December from the launch site in Cape Carnival but they need to make sure of the safety of the two astronauts first.
Reportedly, the pressure is growing from NASA’s side as NASA will run out of the limited number of seats onboard the Soyuz flight by the fall of 2020.