SpaceX was awarded a multi-billion dollar contract by NASA to build a spacecraft which would take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) back in 2014. Several delays, including an explosion during a ground test of the Dragon Crew capsule back in July, have set SpaceX back. As a result, NASA has continued to rely on Russia’s Soyuz rocket to take American astronauts to the ISS.
NASA is unhappy that Mr Musk and SpaceX have no unveiled the Starship rocket, while promises have been unfulfilled with the space agency.
Mr Bridenstine tweeted: “Commercial Crew is years behind schedule.
“NASA expects to see the same level of enthusiasm focused on the investments of the American taxpayer. It’s time to deliver.”
However, Mr Musk hit back at Mr Bridenstine, claiming the delays reflect the industry as a whole.
The South African-born billionaire told CNN: “Everything in aerospace is eight years behind.
“Most of the work that is required from now through flight of NASA astronauts is a long series of safety reviews, so it’s not really hardware related, and it’s really going as fast as we can go.
“If there’s some way to make it go faster, I would make it go faster.”
Mr Musk added that the Commercial Crew could begin delivering astronauts to the ISS within three to four months.
The war of words calmed down, with Mr Bridenstine tweeting that he had a “great phone call with Elon Musk this week, and I’m looking forward to visiting SpaceX in Hawthorne, (California) next Thursday.”
Following the tour, SpaceX will host a press conference with Bridenstine, SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk, and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley – the crew for the Demo-2 flight test to the space station.
This will be live streamed on Mr Bridentine’s Twitter account on October 10, 5pm EDT (10pm BST).
On Saturday, September 28, Mr Musk unveiled a prototype of the Starship Mk1rocket which will take humans to the Moon, Mars and “beyond”.
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Standing in front of a prototype of the 164ft (50m) tall, 200-ton, or 1,400 tons when fully loaded, SpaceX Starship, Mr Musk said that the rocket will be placed in Earth’s orbit within six months to test the machine.
The Starship prototype, displayed alongside SpaceX’s original Falcon 1 rocket on Saturday, is constructed of eye-catching stainless steel instead than the carbon composite or aluminium-based materials.
This gives the SpaceX Starship “exceptional thermal properties” and a lower cost.
A refined Starship paired with a SpaceX Super Heavy booster stage will increase the rocket’s height to 387ft (117m) and capable of carrying 220,000 pounds.
The spaceship will also include the functions for “orbital refilling”, which would allow fuel to be transferred from spacecraft to spacecraft in Earth’s orbit – something which Mr Musk said is easier to do than docking at the International Space Station (ISS).
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