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SpaceX gets astronauts to try out its Dragon crew cabin


March 19, 2012

The trial crew (from left): NASA Crew Survival Engineering Team Lead Dustin Gohmert, NASA ...

The trial crew (from left): NASA Crew Survival Engineering Team Lead Dustin Gohmert, NASA Astronaut Tony Antonelli, NASA Astronaut Lee Archambault, SpaceX Mission Operations Engineer Laura Crabtree, SpaceX Thermal Engineer Brenda Hernandez, NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim, and NASA Astronaut Tim Kopra

Image Gallery (4 images)

With the space shuttle program now officially over, the United States needs a new reusable vehicle for getting supplies to and from the International Space Station. NASA is considering the Dragon spacecraft, designed by California-based SpaceX Exploration Technologies, to take over that role. The Dragon’s scheduled late March/early April test flight to the ISS will be unmanned, utilizing a cargo configuration of the spacecraft. Last Friday, however, SpaceX released photographs of an engineering model of of its planned seven-passenger crew cabin, complete with a crew that included real live astronauts.

The four astronauts were among those present for the one-day NASA Crew Trial, in which SpaceX was seeking feedback on its design from industry professionals. The life-size model includes seven seats mounted to supporting structures on the capsule’s inner walls. Each seat is capable of holding an adult up to 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 meters) tall, and weighing up to 250 pounds (113.4 kg) – the seats also have liners that are custom-fit for each passenger. The mock-up additionally includes representations of lighting, environmental control/life support systems, displays, cargo racks and other systems.

The Crew Trial was overseen by personnel from NASA and SpaceX, and was intended to assess factors such as entry and egress of the Dragon in both regular and emergency scenarios, along with reach and visibility concerns for the occupants.

SpaceX recently enlisted NASA astronauts to provide user feedback on a full-sized mock-up ...

NASA awarded a contract to SpaceX in 2006, as part of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) development program. Four years later, using one of its Falcon 9 rockets, the company successfully launched an unmanned Dragon capsule into orbit – the capsule proceeded to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and splash down in the Pacific Ocean, making SpaceX the first commercial company in history to re-enter a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit.

Since then, the company has started work on a reusable launch system to replace the Falcon 9, and has developed the SuperDraco engine, which would allow the Dragon to fly to safety in the event of a launch malfunction.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who is also the man behind PayPal and Tesla Motors, has always envisioned the Dragon primarily as a people-mover – in fact, he recently announced that he hopes to see it used in a manned mission to Mars.

Source: SpaceX

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth

It is the only 'people-mover' i would want to be seen in.

20th March, 2012 @ 03:06 am PDT

SpaceX has brought more results, innovation, efficiency, excitement in 3 years than NASA has in the 40 years and $500 billion since Apollo...

We need to get dead-wood, pork driven NASA out of the way.. keep NASA from dragging SpaceX down to NASA's bloated, wasteful Federal Bureaucracy level.

We need to use SpaceX's booster/capsules for deep space missions.. not let NASA flush another 60+ billion down the failed $20 billion Constellation toilet.

Warren White
24th March, 2012 @ 10:06 pm PDT
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