NASA targeting early 2020 for first manned SpaceX mission

NASA targeting early 2020 for first manned SpaceX mission
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NASA Director Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineSpaceX launches first manned space flight from US in nearly a decade The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Twitter says Trump violates rules with 'shooting' threat The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter MORE says that the agency could begin using SpaceX equipment for manned orbital missions as early as next year if the company does not run into unexpected hurdles with the development of its crew capsule.

Bridenstine told reporters during a visit to Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskNASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon SpaceX capsule successfully docks at space station Trump calls Floyd death 'grave tragedy,' decries violent protests in Florida speech MORE's SpaceX headquarters in California that if "everything goes according to plan," the agency will begin manned missions using SpaceX's capsule in the first quarter of 2020.

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“If everything goes according to plan, it would be the first quarter of next year,” he said, according to Reuters, while adding that the agency is "not going to take any undue risk" by sticking to an unrealistic time line.

Musk also addressed reporters at the news conference, explaining that despite difficulties in developing the crew capsule's parachute, the company planned to finish testing by the end of the year.

“Testing will be complete and hardware at the Cape [Canaveral] by the end of December," he said, according to Reuters.

NASA's use of private contractors such as SpaceX for future space flights comes as the agency currently spends millions every year to use Russian technology necessary for reaching the International Space Station.

Bridenstine reportedly indicated at Thursday's press conference that the agency's policy of "buying seats" on Russian spacecraft will continue as a backup strategy in case manufacturing of crew capsules in the U.S. are delayed.