Space

Elon Musk unveils Dragon V2 manned spacecraft

Elon Musk unveils Dragon V2 ma...
The Dragon V2 was unveiled at a brief media event
The Dragon V2 was unveiled at a brief media event
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The Dragon V2 was unveiled at a brief media event
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The Dragon V2 was unveiled at a brief media event
The new Dragon can carry up to seven astronauts
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The new Dragon can carry up to seven astronauts
Animation still of the Dragon V2 in orbit
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Animation still of the Dragon V2 in orbit
Animation still of the Dragon V2 with docking probe open
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Animation still of the Dragon V2 with docking probe open
Animation still of the Dragon V2 docking with the ISS
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Animation still of the Dragon V2 docking with the ISS
Animation still of the Dragon V2 landing under its own power
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Animation still of the Dragon V2 landing under its own power
A composite-wrapped titanium fuel tank from the Dragon propulsion system
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A composite-wrapped titanium fuel tank from the Dragon propulsion system
Inside Dragon V2
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Inside Dragon V2
Elon Musk at the controls of Dragon V2
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Elon Musk at the controls of Dragon V2
The touchscreen controls of the Dragon V2
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The touchscreen controls of the Dragon V2
Teaser image of the Dragon V2's seats
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Teaser image of the Dragon V2's seats
Elon Musk prior to the unveiling
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Elon Musk prior to the unveiling
Only the critical emergency systems on the Dragon V2 control panel have buttons
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Only the critical emergency systems on the Dragon V2 control panel have buttons

Having teased the public by showing off the SuperDraco engine, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has taken the wraps off the Dragon V2 manned spacecraft that it’s designed to propel. At a brief media event at SpaceX’s Hawthorne, California headquarters, Musk introduced the larger, more powerful version of the reusable Dragon capsule, which will one day carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and return to Earth to land under its own power.

The first unmanned version of the the SpaceX Dragon will already be familiar to the space-conscious segment of the public. Developed in part under a NASA initiative to find a privately owned and operated replacement for the retired Space Shuttle, the Dragon recently completed its third cargo mission to the ISS and has another scheduled in a few months time.

Though the spacecraft has enjoyed considerable success, SpaceX has always seen it as an interim step toward the company’s ultimate goal of a fully reusable manned capsule capable of making a powered landing on Earth and other planets with the precision of a helicopter.

The touchscreen controls of the Dragon V2
The touchscreen controls of the Dragon V2

Billed as a “step-change in spacecraft technology,” the Dragon V2 that Musk unveiled is larger and more streamlined than the first Dragon, with a cabin large enough to accommodate up to seven astronauts for several days in orbit in what appears to be business-class comfort.

The interior has a futuristic set of seats and a pilot seat with a touchscreen control panel that Captain Picard would be comfortable with. Only the joystick is analog and only critical emergency systems have manual buttons. According to Musk, the capsule has a much more sophisticated piloting system, so it can dock with the space station autonomously or under the control of a pilot instead of relying on one of the ISS’s robotic arms.

For returning to Earth, the Dragon V2 has the third version of the PICA-X heatshield, which is SpaceX’s improvement on NASA’s Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA) heat shield. This shield protects the capsule during reentry and because it ablates less than previous versions, Dragon V2 can carry out more flights before needing a refit.

Animation still of the Dragon V2 docking with the ISS
Animation still of the Dragon V2 docking with the ISS

The capsule has eight SuperDraco engines, which are 200 times more powerful than the Draco engines used on the current Dragon. Putting out 16,400 lb of thrust each, the SuperDraco engines will allow the new Dragon, when fully developed, to return to its spaceport and make a powered landing.

However, Musk points out that Dragon V2 still carries a parachute, but that’s only a backup system in the event of a malfunction of the SuperDraco engines, which can still make a landing if two of the eight engines fail. If the landing is successful, Musk says that all the Dragon V2 needs to fly again is refueling.

Source: SpaceX

19 comments
Ryan Gibbons
First step! Is this better than the Orion or Boing capsules? Well besides the obvious things like powered landing.
Slowburn
@ Ryan Gibbons It costs a lot less.
VirtualGathis
It certainly looks like a massive improvement. If they can accomplish the stated goals when Dragonv2 meets the real world testing then it will without a doubt leave the vast majority of NASA, and its cost plus partners, launch capabilities looking like ancient history.
Leonard Foster Jr
Musk is on it !!!
commonsense
While I like the looks of a shuttle craft, the Dragon v2 may be a necessary step to getting back into space. NASA's shuttles were very old when the program ended, and there was no plan to replace the aging fleet (or what was left of it). Had they looked long term (and perhaps looked at smaller versions designed only for crew and small amounts of cargo) they may have been able to continue launching crew to the Space Station.
moreover
" business-class comfort" - but I don't see no cup holders! Seriously, one of the reasons it's so cheap is that they don't outsource production and development: No middlemen, more direct feedback and correctives in house. What needs explanation, though, is the claim about the "SuperDraco engines, which are 200 times more powerful". That makes it sound it's only a step away from Warp drive :) Did the first unit have fewer engines? Does it use a higher octane fuel? Vastly bigger tanks? 200 times more powerful? Really?
ezeflyer
Nice to see a billionaire actually doing something to help good science instead of impoverishing the world for profit.
sergey sukhotskiy
If Dragon would have Focus Fusion engines with specific impulse around 1 000 000 - it could go to Mars without Falcon . So let's help it happen https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/focus-fusion-empowertheworld--3/x/7399178?show_todos=true
Nostromo47
Elon Musk is the Howard Hughes of the 21st Century! The only thing left for him to do next is to start making hit movies and movie starlets. Afterall, Hawthorne is close to Hollywood.
StWils
For the time being lets skip the automated powered soft landing and get this thing tested for crew transport. The sooner we can flip off the Russians the better for everyone. This includes the Chinese and actually, the Russians as well. Eventually Putin will leave the scene and progressive democratic forces in Russia will get back on track. In the meantime we need to get back to having an independent path to space and the ISS.