BOURGET, France (Reuters) – The explosion that destroyed a SpaceX astronaut taxi in April "undoubtedly" delays NASA's decision to bring Americans from the United States back to the International Space Station later this year. Tuesday the head of the US space agency.
FILE PHOTO: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks at a NASA "Apollo – Then and Now" event at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 23, 2019. REUTERS / Joe Skipper
But NASA's director, Jim Bridenstine, has not offered a clear flight schedule for his multi-billion dollar commercial flight crew program, and said he would not prejudge the results of an investigation into the incident.
"There is no doubt that the schedule will change," Bridenstine told the press at the Paris Air Show. "It will not be what was originally planned."
Bridenstine's comments cast new doubt on billionaire Elon Musk's goal of sending American astronauts back to the research laboratory in orbit this year, although a person familiar with the case said SpaceX had expressed concern about all confidence its ability to bounce back.
For years, the United States had to go to Russia to get to the space station, and the Trade Team Program aims to change that.
Boeing Co, the other subcontractor hired by NASA to develop a separate rocket and capsule system allowing astronauts to fly in space, has also delayed its own flights by several months.
Adding to doubts, NASA said it plans to pay two more spaces for the space station in autumn 2019 and spring 2020 to guarantee US access.
The SpaceX astronaut flight was originally scheduled for July after a successful six-day unmanned round-trip mission in April.
The April 20 accident occurred at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base while SpaceX was about to test eight emergency thrusters designed to propel the capsule, dubbed Crew Dragon, to safety from the top of the rocket in case of launch failure.
NASA has awarded $ 6.8 billion to SpaceX and Boeing to develop their own capsule systems.
Bridenstine is also committed to improving communication and transparency after the agency and SpaceX have been criticized for their reluctance to describe in simple terms what had happened to the capsule several days after the launch. # 39; incident.
This position was in contradiction with NASA's long history of transparency regarding accidents involving its manned space flight program.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Report by Eric M. Johnson; Edited by Mark Potter