SpaceX’s Awesome ‘Crew Dragon’ Spacecraft
SpaceX's Private Space Transport
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, developed in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program (to foster private space capabilities) was one of two selected to transfer astronauts and cargo to and from low-Earth orbit for NASA. Crew Dragon is reusable and can carry up to 7 astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and even paying space tourist around the Moon!
Commercial Space Transportation For The 21st Century!
The commercialization of space will be critical to driving down costs in the future to fully utilize the ISS and space in general. The NASA led Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev) to develop private space capabilities was an inspired decision and provided most of the funding to develop Crew Dragon.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner were ultimately awarded the NASA contracts to transport US astronauts to the low-Earth orbit freeing NASA to focus on other space exploration missions.
Crew Dragon will help return America’s human spaceflight capability it lost when the Space Shuttle fleet was retired in 2011, with NASA contracting SpaceX to initially complete 6 crew rotation missions to the ISS (with 4 astronauts plus cargo per flight). Eventually SpaceX also intends to offer space tourism missions aboard the Crew Dragon to the ISS maybe also to a planned space hotel or on trips around the Moon!
The first Crew Dragon spaceflight with NASA astronauts to the ISS is planned to lift off in 2020.
Top 10 Fun Facts About The Crew Dragon!
- At various times Crew Dragon has been referred to as Dragon 2, Dragon V2 and DragonRider.
- The spacecraft has a diameter of 3.7 m (12 ft), weighs 6,400 kg (14,000 lbs) and has 5 windows.
- The capsule’s interior has futuristic-looking tablet-like touch screens, autonomous flight control computer and rendezvous/docking system with the ISS.
- Astronauts will also wear advanced SpaceX spacesuits during flight in case of an unplanned depressurization event.
- The abort system utilizes 8 side-mounted SpaceX SuperDraco 3D printed rocket engines which can push the crew capsule to safety! In the future they may also be used for propulsive soft landings on Earth or the Moon, but for now landings are by parachute.
- To help drive down costs the capsule is reusable up to 10 times and includes a reusable nose cone too which pivots to enable in-space docking, and returns to the covered position for reentry.
- The Crew Dragon capsule and service module will be launched atop SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 or Falcon heavy rockets!
- The capsule is designed to accommodate up to 7 crew, or crew cargo mix, to reach low-Earth orbit destinations like the ISS and stay in space 180 days or longer as the Russian Soyuz spacecraft currently does.
- The cost of a single seat aboard Crew Dragon in to space, is estimated to currently cost $20 million USD. This is still 3 to 4 times cheaper than paying to fly to space with the Russian’s!
- The Crew Dragon made its first successful unmanned trip to the ISS in March 2019 returning safely to a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.
Exciting times for manned spaceflight with these new spacecraft being deployed!