Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The SpaceX Dragon

SpaceRef has details (with images) of the Dragon, a people and cargo carrying reusable spacecraft that's been under private development by SpaceX for several years. SpaceX plans to use this for transport to the International Space Station under the NASA COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) program.

SpaceX thinks this can be flying by 2009, before the Shuttle is retired in 2010. They already have a full-scale prototype (sans heat shield and reaction control system). The big question mark is when the launcher will be ready. Dragon requires the heavy-lift Falcon 9 vehicle, and Space X still hasn't gotten Falcon 1 off the ground (although it will have another opportunity later this month). Dragon has been in the works for several years now, originally as a DC-X type vehicle.

"Initial designs for Dragon were somewhat similar to a blunt nose version of the DC-X - complete with landing legs. Driven by additional thinking - and the emerging demands of a cargo and human transport business for the ISS - the design of Dragon has been modified and the crew capsule portion of the spacecraft now sports a more conventional blunt conical, capsule-like design with a 15-degree slope angle."

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