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Friday, 20 June 2014

Dragon V2

Friday, June 20, 2014

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While I'm still hoping to see something like the Nautilus X that I wrote about a couple of years ago, I was also increadibly pleased to see the new version of the Dragon spacecraft from SpaceX that will allow seven crewmembers to get around in space. The Dragon V2 was announced the a couple of weeks ago by Tony Stark Elon Musk and it looks beautiful! The first thing that strikes you is how sleek and modern it looks, both outside and in. The seats and control interface especially looks just like something out of the new Star Trek movies which is pretty neat! Of course, the spartan interior will likely look quite different during actual operation and with stuff crammed everywhere. The control interface will be based around touch screens coupled with a center panel with physical buttons and switches for emergencies.

Elon in the pilot's seat.

Room for seven.
Moving out of the spaceship you might notice that it's standing on its own four legs and the four large, black exhausts around the hull. Yepp, this thing is meant to land on its own using eight (partially 3D-printed!) SuperDraco thrusters after having entered the Earth's atmosphere. Elon says it will have the accuracy of a helicopter which is pretty impressive compared to simply aiming for the ocean! If you feel sceptical of the idea, just take a look at what SpaceX has already accomplished with Grasshopper:



Of course Dragon V2 will have parachutes as well, for emergencies. After landing it will be ready to launch again very soon which is one of the core concepts of SpaceX's approach to space - as much as possible should be reusable and the time to relaunchability should be short.

We don't have much information about how it performs in space but in the video above you can see something similar to a service module with fins (for radiation) that is covered by solar panels. This is an interesting choices as we usually see foldable "wings" for the panels. Perhaps this approach of less moving parts make for higher effieciancy.

First off the Dragon V2 will be used for getting astronauts to the ISS but it's clearly meant to handle other tasks as well and we know that SpaceX still has Mars as its main goal. Just the other day Elon made an interview on NBC News and said that he's hopeful that we'll see the first humans on mars in 10-12 years. A bold statement, but coming from this man I'm not immediately sceptical. Of course the Dragon going to Mars would probably be version 3 or 4.

Speculation on what the next Dragon might look like.

With more and more private companies picking up the slack that governments have left off it's an exciting time to be a space exploration enthusiast!

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