NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine and SpaceX founder Elon Musk have announced that the partnership between the company and the US space agency remains strong, and that first SpaceX craft with US astronauts on board may be launched as early as the beginning of 2020.
As The Verge points out, this reveal, made during Bridenstine’s visit to SpaceX headquarters, comes just "two weeks after the two figures exchanged public jabs in the press", which may hint at certain "friction between SpaceX and NASA."
"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," Bridenstine said.
He also remarked that while they are "very confident that in the first part of next year, we will be ready to launch American astronauts on American rockets”, this timetable may change "if something comes up that we didn’t know."
"Regardless of whether we make it in the first part of next year is less relevant than the fact that we will make it," he stated.
In response, Musk said that "human spaceflight is the reason that SpaceX was created," and that they are proud to partner with NASA.
Earlier this week, Musk also suggested that his company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft may be ready for a manned flight even before the end of this year, arguing that both the capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket designed to propel it into space are on track to complete testing in the next 10 weeks.
SpaceX has a $2.6 billion NASA contract to ferry American astronauts between Earth and the International Space Station via the Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9.