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HAWTHORNE, Calif. — Standing in front of a Crew Dragon spacecraft crawling with busy technicians, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine joined SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and two NASA astronauts last week at the company's headquarters in here to discuss the scheduling challenges of SpaceX's first crewed flights to the International Space Station (ISS).
It was the first appearance of Musk and Bridenstine together since the two space titans traded seemingly critical comments after Musk's recent appearance touting his Starship Mars-colonization craft. At that time, Bridenstine tweeted congratulations to SpaceX on the company's Starship progress but noted that the Commercial Crew program was dramatically behind schedule, adding, "It's time to deliver."
Admonishment - NASA - Crew - Contractors - SpaceX
While the admonishment was seemingly directed at both of NASA's Commercial Crew contractors, SpaceX and Boeing (which is building a capsule called CST-100 Starliner), Musk quickly responded in a CNN interview with: "Did he say Commercial Crew or SLS?", implying that Boeing's delays on NASA's giant Space Launch System rocket were a far larger problem. This seemingly snarky exchange seems to be behind them now, however. At last Thursday's (Oct. 10) news conference, the two agreed that testing for the Crew Dragon is proceeding apace.
Prominent among the many remaining tests that need to be performed before astronauts can fly in the Crew Dragon are trials of the capsule's launch abort system and its parachutes, both of which have experienced difficulties during recent tests. A Crew Dragon exploded during abort-engine testing last April, but the problem with the SuperDraco abort engines seems to have been identified and fixed, Musk said.
Musk - Addition - Disk - Fuel - Overpressure
Musk discussed the addition of a burst disk, which relieves fuel overpressure without leaking. This new hardware isolates the abort system from the orbital maneuvering system, Musk said, and replaces a valve that leaked and caused the explosion. But the parachutes are perhaps...
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