The Manned Capsule: Dragon V2
Introducing the latest edition to the SpaceX family, it is the Dragon version 2. This newly designed capsule holds great promise for the future of civilian space flights.
A capsule that can safely accommodate seven astronauts, conveniently dock at a space station, land anywhere on Earth with precise accuracy and is reusable immediately. This is some of the main features of the new capsule Dragon V2. The unveiling took place on Thursday evening, 29 May. The CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, was there to do the unveiling and presentation of the new creation himself.
The new Dragon V2 is based on its predecessor the V1. This helped to cut on research and development cost for the new capsule. Working and developing together with NASA, SpaceX hopes that the new capsule will open the door to a new generation of commercial space flight vehicles. Currently NASA pays Russia about $71 million per astronaut to be shipped off to the ISS and back. They hope to cut that cost to around $20 million per astronaut with the new Dragon V2 capsule.
The key to cutting costs for the Dragon V2 is the reusability of the craft. This main factor of reusability is the heat shield the craft will use. The heat shield on the Dragon V2 is the 3rd generation heat shield developed by SpaceX and Nasa. They say that the new heat shield should be able to withstand ten re-entries into the atmosphere before it would need replacing, compared to the previous heat shield that needed replacing after only one re-entry. Some say with further development that the heat shield will become so good that it will only need to be replaced every hundred re-entries. This will have a dramatic savings effect on the running costs of the capsule.
Savings will also be made due to the fact that the Dragon V2 can land on solid ground. Elon Musk said that the Dragon V2 can land with the accuracy of a helicopter on any runway on Earth. This is thanks to the new propulsion landing system, instead of the old parachute landing system. The Dragon V2 will still have the parachutes as an emergency backup but it is said that the Dragon V2 capsule can still land safely with two landing booster failures. The parachute is only a last resort. So with the new propulsion landing system, costs will be saved because there is no salvaging mission needed to collect the astronauts and the capsule from the ocean.
The new capsule will be used for transport of astronauts and cargo that will be transported between the ISS and Earth. The capsule can carry seven astronauts and a further one ton of pressurised cargo and also a further two to three tons of unpressurised cargo.
This new capsule can really be a leap forward for commercial space flight as it is said that with further development that the cost per seat could be reduced to a single digit million dollar ticket price. Elon Musk also said that: “We want to get to the point where we have thousands of space flights per year, and ultimately where we have a base on the moon and we have [bases] for other civilizations, that’s where things need to go in the long term”.