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The NASA chief has said that the long-awaited launch of the SpaceX’ Commercial Crew program to take astronauts into space, could happen as early as next year. This is expected to significantly reduce space travel costs by $35 million.
SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk, together with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, have said that by the first quarter of next year, Space X will complete the development to a considerable extent and will begin initial test flights for the Crew Dragon spaceship.
According to Bridenstine, this will definitely happen as long as there are no unforeseen circumstances with the project’s redesigned parachutes and its emergency systems, between now and the first quarter of next year when the launch is slated to take place.
Bridenstine’s optimism was clearly measurable as he stressed the importance of the project and how much work has to be done to make sure that it is completely risk-free. According to him:
“This is a big deal for our country. We can’t get it wrong and in fact, we have to get it right. 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.”
Many have viewed the Administrator’s statement as an improvement of the relationship between NASA and SpaceX, especially as the two chiefs seemed to go at each other’s necks very recently. Weeks ago, Musk revealed SpaceX’s new Starship prototype to journalists and the public.
However, Bridenstine tweeted just a day before, seemingly taking shots at the company as SpaceX has repeatedly delayed the launch of the Commercial Crew project, which was expected to have taken off as far back as 2017.
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) September 27, 2019
Even though Bridenstine has suggested that the project launch period could easily be postponed in the event that something doesn’t seem quite right before then, he remains optimistic that the launch will happen regardless.
“Elon and I are in strong agreement on this – that the one thing we have under development that is of the highest priority is launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.
Human spaceflight is the reason that SpaceX was created, and we’re incredibly honored to partner with NASA and just to make this happen. This is a dream come true, really.”
NASA ended its Space Shuttle project in 2011 and since then, the only way people could reach the international space stations has been through Soyuz rockets from Russia. This has been an uncomfortable alternative with expenses as high as $85 million per astronaut. The purpose of NASA’s Commercial Crew program with SpaceX as well as Boeing is to make this a lot more cost-effective using American provisions which are expected to cost $35 million less, at $50 million per seat.
SpaceX was founded by Elon musk more than 17 years ago in 2002. The company is fully private, so it’s impossible for anyone to buy-in. The only exception to this is that there are some investors carefully selected by SpaceX, who own some equity.
For example, both Google and Fidelity signed a joined deal back in 2015, causing the company’s value to hit $10 billion. As of May 2019, people familiar with the company have told CNBC that SpaceX is worth $33.3 billion. Musk has suggested previously, that the company isn’t in a hurry to conduct an IPO.