The Dragon V2 Is SpaceX’s First Ever Manned Spacecraft
The commercially-built craft that could carry people back and forth into space was but a sci-fi pipedream. Tonight, SpaceX revealed a spacecraft built to do just that.
Called the Dragon V2, the craft is built to carry up to 7 passengers (or fewer passengers, with cargo) into orbit and up to the International Space Station. According to SpaceX co-founder Elon Musk, it’ll be able to return and “land anywhere on earth with the accuracy of a helicopter“.
“The reason that this is really imported,” said Musk, “is that it allows rapid reusability of the spacecraft. You just refill the propellant, and go again… Imagine if aircraft were thrown away after each flight; no one could afford to fly.”
SpaceX had previously shown Dragon V1, a smaller, unmanned version of this craft meant primarily for testing and, in a few cases, sending cargo back and forth to the International Space Station. Dragon V2 also has an improved heat shield, allowing it to better protect passengers on their return flight through the atmosphere.
The biggest single change to the design, though, is in the engines: where each of Dragon V1′s engines (the “Draco” engine) could produce about 100 pounds of thrust, each of the Dragon V2′s engines (the aptly dubbed “Super Draco” engines) can produce about 16,000 pounds of thrust. The particularly cool part? SpaceX says they’re actually 3d printing the engines out of a specialized metal alloy (called Inconel), as opposed to more traditional manufacturing methods like milling.
NASA and SpaceX hope that the spacecraft should be ready for flight by 2017.