The US agency boss said there is “no doubt” the schedule will change despite SpaceX insisting Crew Dragon could launch a pilot flight by the end of the year. A senior NASA manager said SpaceX is hoping to take corrective actions to launch two astronauts to the ISS. But Mr Bridenstine’s comments hit out at Mr Musk’s goal for this year.
Mr Bridenstine said: “There is no doubt the schedule will change.
“It won’t be what was originally planned.”
But he stopped short of offering a clear flight timeline for its multibillion-dollar Commercial Crew Program, and said he would not prejudge the results of an investigation into the incident.
A source in SpaceX is confident the company can rebound from the explosion.
For years, the United States has had to rely on Russia for rides to the space station and the Commercial Crew Program’s goal is to change that.
Contractors have been hired by NASA to develop a separate rocket and capsule system to fly astronauts to space, has also delayed its own flights for months.
Adding to the doubts, NASA has said it is considering paying for two more seats to the space station for autumn of 2019 and spring of 2020 to ensure US access.
Originally, SpaceX’s astronaut flight was planned for July following a successful six-day round-trip unpiloted mission in March.
The April 20 accident occurred at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as SpaceX was about to test eight emergency thrusters designed to propel the capsule, dubbed Crew Dragon, to safety from atop the rocket in the event of a launch failure.
NASA has awarded $6.8billion (£5.4billion) to SpaceX and Boeing to develop their separate capsule systems.
Mr Bridenstine also pledged better communication and transparency after the agency and SpaceX were criticised over a reluctance to describe in plain terms what happened to the capsule for days after the incident.
SpaceX has yet to comment on his latest judgment.