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Elon Musk says SpaceX Crew Dragon could be almost ready by Christmas

CNET logo CNET 5 days ago Eric Mack
a close up of a train: The SpaceX Crew Dragon will head to the ISS on its first test flight. NASA © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. The SpaceX Crew Dragon will head to the ISS on its first test flight. NASA

NASA could receive a nice holiday present at Cape Canaveral in just a few months. 

According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, its Crew Dragon spacecraft could be nearly ready to carry its first astronauts from Florida to the International Space Station by the end of the year. 

"The SpaceX schedule, which I've just reviewed in depth, shows Falcon & Dragon at the Cape & all testing done in (about) 10 weeks," Musk wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

Related slideshow: Coolest images of SpaceX missions (Provided by Photo Services)

Musk went on to add that an uncrewed launch to test Crew Dragon's in-flight abort system should happen in late November or early December. An actual launch of a Crew Dragon with astronauts aboard has not yet been scheduled, but Musk has said the craft could be ready to fly human crew in early 2020.

The update was in response to a post by Ars Technica's Eric Berger, who wrote:

"Source says 'full panic has ensued' as NASA realizes commercial crew may not be ready in first half of 2020; and (former NASA head of human exploration and operations Bill) Gerstenmeier is no longer around to help the companies along, or negotiate with Russians for more Soyuz seats. Focus on Artemis may put ISS program in real danger."

NASA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about Musk's and Berger's claims.

NASA's commercial crew program aims to return human spaceflight to US shores via contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to launch astronauts to the ISS via new spacecraft. But the effort has been fraught with drama as testing and completion of both spaceships fell behind schedule and a Crew Dragon exploded during an uncrewed ground test.

Then, in September, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine publicly prodded Musk on Twitter during the build-up to the big SpaceX Starship presentation at Boca Chica, Texas. Musk then fired back with a jab about NASA's chronically late Space Launch System rocket.

NASA, Boeing and SpaceX had all originally hoped to get commercial crew launches going in 2019. It now seems that 2020 is far more likely and NASA will be eager to make sure the new vehicles are ready to go next year. That's because NASA's agreement with the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos to transport astronauts between Earth and orbit is down to its last launch, currently scheduled for March.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon will head to the ISS on its first test flight. © CNET

The SpaceX Crew Dragon will head to the ISS on its first test flight.

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