SpaceX Brings Sexy Back with Dragon V2 Unveil
Last week Elon Musk took to the stage to show off the human version of his Dragon space capsule. It brings the sex appeal of a Telsa Model S to an Apollo-like spaceship.
But this is not your father's (or grandfather's) space capsule. It comes complete with a gull-wing door (think of the Delorean's doors in Back to the Future), leather seats- with room for seven crew, flat panel screens, and even cool, retro, back-lit analog switches for all emergency-critical functions.
Lucky for us this spaceship isn't just beautiful, she also is smart. Dragon V2 is designed to be able to land propulsively (think Millennium Falcon) which means it doesn't have to parachute down to Earth, but should be able to land on land with the accuracy of a helicopter (it will still fly with the parachutes as back-up). The upgraded heat shield, Pica version 3, ablates less per re-entry allowing you to get more flights before having to replace it. The new SuperDraco thrusters (which looked to be bigger than a microwave oven) are also going to the the first fully "printed" rocket engines to see flight and are made of Inconel (a nickel-chromium superalloy). These new 'smart' features will also open up access to the Holy Grail of human spaceflight, reusability/affordability.
As Elon always explains it, "No one could afford a flight to New York City if you had to throw away the airplane every time you landed."
Dragon V2 will also be able to dock with the International Space Station without needing the Canadian robotic arm to berth it and can dock autonomously or under pilot control. On board life support systems will be able to support seven people for several days.
The 15 minute video of the unveil is worth watching for any fans, I also took a few screen captures so you can see the key moments. You can check out the whole video here.
The Dragon V1 space capsule has already made three successful cargo trips to the International Space Station and SpaceX is hoping to win a NASA contract to carry U.S Astronauts in the future (NASA Astronauts currently ride on the Russian Soyuz Rocket). NASA's CCtCap (Commercial Crew) program is designed to get a U.S. commercial capability to take NASA Astronauts to ISS no earlier than 2017. SpaceX is competing for this contract alongside Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corp.
Today the Houston Chronicle reported that Senator Shelby (R-AL) has added language into the 2015 NASA Appropriations Bill that adds onerous, detailed financial and cost reporting requirements on these three companies. This flies in the face of the original intent of the program which was to foster lean, and less costly space vehicles. I hope that the community will rally to ask Congress not to let that language stand. We need to all support the ability of the U.S. commercial space sector to provide us with affordable human-rated space vehicles.