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SpaceX Crew Dragon could fly astronauts to the ISS in early 2020

Drop tests on its new parachutes should start in a week or so.
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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, talks with SpaceX chief engineer Elon Musk, right, in front of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, about the progress to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station, from American soil, as part of the agency's commercial crew program at SpaceX headquarters, in Hawthorne, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo) ASSOCIATED PRESS

As expected, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stopped by SpaceX HQ in California and then did a bit of Q&A with the media while standing next to Elon Musk and two astronauts. You can watch video of the entire session below as it was posted to Bridenstine's Twitter feed, but some of the highlights included comments about the Crew Dragon project and the progress made there. While the administrator emphasized the need for more testing, and allowed that schedules could change depending on what they find there, the capsule could be ready for its first crewed "Demo-2" test flight in Q1 of 2020.

According to Elon Musk, drop tests that are about to start will evaluate its "Mark 3" parachute design, which has replaced nylon cords with stronger "xylon" material. They also referenced the explosion on the test stand earlier this year, with Bridenstine praising SpaceX's "fail fast" model, as long as it includes fixes before rockets actually take flight. Musk agreed, saying that if things don't fail then you aren't trying hard enough. The explosion was apparently related to a leak somewhere between the launch abort system and orbital maneuvering system, so that area has been redesigned.

Overall, everyone seems to be closer to the same page than in weeks past, but we'll have to wait and see if this gets the Commercial Crew program moving sooner rather than later.

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