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Elon Musk unveils Dragon V2 manned spacecraft

By

May 29, 2014

The Dragon V2 was unveiled at a brief media event

The Dragon V2 was unveiled at a brief media event

Image Gallery (13 images)

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

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

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

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
19 Comments

First step! Is this better than the Orion or Boing capsules? Well besides the obvious things like powered landing.

Ryan Gibbons
29th May, 2014 @ 11:54 pm PDT

@ Ryan Gibbons

It costs a lot less.

Slowburn
30th May, 2014 @ 05:19 am PDT

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.

VirtualGathis
30th May, 2014 @ 05:57 am PDT

Musk is on it !!!

Leonard Foster Jr
30th May, 2014 @ 08:21 am PDT

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.

commonsense
30th May, 2014 @ 08:27 am PDT

" 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?

moreover
30th May, 2014 @ 09:12 am PDT

Nice to see a billionaire actually doing something to help good science instead of impoverishing the world for profit.

ezeflyer
30th May, 2014 @ 09:30 am PDT

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

sergey sukhotskiy
30th May, 2014 @ 10:10 am PDT

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.

Nostromo47
30th May, 2014 @ 10:15 am PDT

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.

StWils
30th May, 2014 @ 10:53 am PDT

Then maybe the Obama administration can explain why we are still paying and bowing to the Russians on supplying the ISS when we have this in our back yard.

rconaway
30th May, 2014 @ 11:27 am PDT

Very cool and obviously a significant step. However, the V2 designation is unfortunate — reminiscent of the rockets that bombarded England in WWII. How about D2?

MintHenryJ
30th May, 2014 @ 11:39 am PDT

Agreed, the V2 designation is horribly crass. Doesn't Musk know any history?

MSR
30th May, 2014 @ 12:49 pm PDT

Mass produce this, awesome,

Stephen N Russell
30th May, 2014 @ 04:51 pm PDT

@ MintHenryJ & MSR

Should we also never use A 4 & A 6.

Dragon Version 2. Get use to it.

Slowburn
30th May, 2014 @ 10:50 pm PDT

Everyone through the rest of time should skip from version 1 to version 3. We should just replace the number 2 with a a symbol like prince, it will be pronounced "The number formerly known as 2"

We could actually just use a version of princes symbol instead of the number 2 only turned upside down. http://i.imgur.com/23NWKlS.png

The only problem is we can't call it a "2nd" version of the symbol. It would be the "TNFKA2nd" version of the symbol.

We should avoid using all numbers someone feels is bad luck. A fire in Apollo 1 killed 3 people. An oxygen tank exploded on Apollo 13. Challenger 10 disintegrated after launch. Columbia 28 burned up in re-entry. We can strike numbers from use as they become used up by tragedy and then start using letters in their place.

We can use designators like "version a" and "version b" only we will have to start at D for a released version because "alpha" and beta" are testing phases and "charlie" might offend vietnamese.

There you have it, they should have instead named the thing V.D.

Daishi
31st May, 2014 @ 12:34 am PDT

Given his history with software, v2 just stands for "version 2". I know about the V2 rockets from WWII, but I made no association with them. By the way, the Dragon is the spacecraft, not the rocket. There's no crassness here, unless you're wanting there to be. The next version will be V3 (version 3).

Can't wait to see it fly!

moollar
31st May, 2014 @ 11:01 pm PDT

I like Elon, they try their hardest to hold him back with regulations, they are slowing him, but he is such entrepreneur think he will achieve his aims of competing with Virgin.

PaulYak
4th June, 2014 @ 09:49 am PDT

Nice to see a bit of showmanship in the normal boring engineering type fields. This is usually only reserved for the competitive consumer electronics fields.

Elon knows how to sell himself and his projects.

Riaanh
12th June, 2014 @ 04:45 am PDT
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