SpaceX has been making a big splash recently with the release of the revolutionary Dragon Version 2. Never before has this military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek seen such a futuristic design that is fully functional. The new Dragon v2 is a major leap forward in manned spaceflight. It features many new, advanced, and life-saving features that this geek will highlight as we explore the Dragon v2 in this blog series.
The SpaceX Dragon Version 2 is designed to deliver a revolutionary, reusable, manned space capsule. The spacecraft is capable of carrying up to seven astronauts and landing virtually anywhere terrestrially; and, after refueling, it can be ready for reuse. In this way, Dragon v2 eliminates the need for an ocean landing, which is a major challenge in myriad interplanetary destinations such as Mars or the moon which lack water on the surface.
The capsule interior looks as though it came straight out of a science-fiction film, with seven seats against a metal, geometric background. Without a doubt, this geek’s favorite aesthetic in the entire capsule is the avionics panel. The central control panel features four, wide-format (landscape) monitors with touchscreen pilot controls. The entire panel swings out of the way to facilitate easy, unobstructed capsule entrance and egress.
Safety comes first, so for the first time in history, the Dragon sports a safety system that provides a means of escape throughout the entire launch, from Earth to orbit. Additionally, eight SuperDraco engines are built into the side of the spacecraft and can produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry the passengers to safety in the event of an emergency. SpaceX officials explain that, “this system also enables Dragon v2 to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with the precision of a helicopter”—an impressive feat for a space capsule.
The Dragon currently resupplies the International Space Station under a $1.6 billion Cargo Resupply Services contract with NASA. This geek looks forward to a time when the U.S. can again launch astronauts into space, rather than relying on outsourced rockets or another government-funded launch system (i.e., Russian Federal Space Agency’s Soyuz or NASA’s defunct Space Shuttle program). More on that next.