Today, SpaceX unveiled its Dragon Version 2 spacecraft, the next generation spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to Earth orbit and beyond. The spacecraft will be capable of carrying up to seven crewmembers, landing propulsively almost anywhere on Earth, and refueling and flying again for rapid reusability. As a modern, 21st century manned spacecraft, Dragon v2 will revolutionize access to space.
Dragon v2’s powerful launch escape system, the first of its kind, will provide escape capability from the time the crew enters the vehicle all the way to orbit. Eight SuperDraco engines built into the side walls of the Dragon spacecraft will produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry astronauts to safety should an emergency occur during launch.
This system also enables Dragon v2 to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with the precision of a helicopter, making possible interplanetary trips that would otherwise be constrained by ocean landings.
Landing propulsively is not only convenient, but also enables rapid reusability. As long as we continue to throw away rockets and spacecraft, we will never have true access to space. After landing, Dragon v2 can be refueled and flown multiple times, drastically lowering the cost of space travel.
Dragon was designed from the beginning to carry humans, and the upgraded vehicle revealed today will be one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown. The vehicle holds seats for 7 passengers, and includes an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that provides a comfortable environment for crewmembers.
With a minimal number of stage separations, all-liquid rocket engines that can be throttled and turned off in an emergency, and launch escape capability all the way to orbit, Dragon v2 will be capable of delivering American astronauts to the space station and beyond with incredible reliability.
Dragon v2 represents a leap forward in spacecraft technology from its Version 1 predecessor. Additional upgrades include a SpaceX-designed and built ISS docking adapter, impact attenuating landing legs, and a more advanced version of the PICA-X (Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator-X) heat shield for improved durability and performance. Dragon v2’s robust thermal protection system is capable of lunar missions, in addition to flights to and from Earth orbit.
Dragon v2 builds on SpaceX’s track record of successfully delivering critical cargo and science experiments to the space station for NASA. The Dragon spacecraft currently resupplies the space station under a $1.6 billion Cargo Resupply Services contract with NASA.
Photos and text courtesy of Space X