NASA chief throws shade at SpaceX ahead of Elon Musk's Starship update

Jim Bridenstine appears to question SpaceX's enthusiasm for NASA's Commercial Crew program aimed at getting astronauts to the ISS.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

SpaceX is building two orbital Starship prototypes, one in Texas and one in Florida. 

Elon Musk

NASA  Administrator Jim Bridenstine is looking forward to SpaceX and Elon Musk's big Starship update on Saturday. Sort of.

Bridenstine dropped an unexpected statement on Twitter on Friday, writing, "I am looking forward to the SpaceX announcement tomorrow. In the meantime, 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."

SpaceX's shiny Starship prototypes designed to make it to Mars are all the rage right now. They're taking giant leaps and Musk is already looking ahead to sending the under-development next-generation spaceships into orbit.

It seems Bridenstine would rather SpaceX got more hyped about its role in NASA's Commercial Crew program. Commercial Crew involves SpaceX and Boeing developing spacecraft that can ferry astronauts from US soil to the International Space Station. 

Watch this: SpaceX aces Starhopper rocket test

NASA has been hitching rides on Russian vessels and is eager to bring launches back to its own country.

Both SpaceX and Boeing's Commercial Crew contributions have been delayed multiple times. SpaceX successfully launched an uncrewed Crew Dragon test mission to the ISS in March, but a Crew Dragon capsule later exploded during a ground test in April.

NASA's last update on Commercial Crew launches was a vague message that future flight test dates were "under review."

Bridenstine appears to be taking SpaceX to task very publicly. It's an interesting move considering NASA has seen plenty of its own delays as it pursues returning humans to the moon in 2024 with the Artemis mission.

Bridenstine later retweeted a perspective from Ars Technica senior space editor Eric Berger: "I would not read this as a shot to SpaceX, but rather a reflection of Jim's desire to see all NASA contractors meet their deadlines for government contracts." 

This sentiment may seem to soften Bridenstine's statement somewhat, but the administrator's message in the tweet is still aimed at SpaceX and doesn't mention other NASA contractors.

CNET has reached out to both NASA and SpaceX for comment.

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