SpaceX Unveils New Space Taxi, The Dragon V2

SpaceX Unveils New Space Taxi, The Dragon V2

Dragon V2

Privately owned space transport service SpaceX unveiled the Dragon V2 on livestream, a new spacecraft that will ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Billionaire founder of SpaceX Elon Musk tonight revealed the Dragon V2 on livestream from his company's California headquarters.

Musk explained that the V2 will be able to land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter, and will be capable of carrying seven astronauts for several days. "It's a big leap forward in technology," said Musk. "It really takes things to the next level."

Another technological leap comes in the form of the craft's new SuperDraco engines. The original Draco engine produces 100 lb. of thrust; each of the two SuperDraco engines produce 16,000 lb. of thrust. Further, the Dragon V2 is capable of autonomously docking with the ISS, without needing the station arm. Dragon V1 requires the Canadarm.

The American flag was proudly emblazoned on the Dragon V2, along with a slick dragon logo.

Musk explained that the design team wanted to keep the interior very clean, with a simple aesthetic. That clean look, coupled with the various large-screen monitors with a clear GUI gave a very sci-fi look to the craft, something that wouldn't look out of place in Star Trek.

The Dragon V2 is a modified version of the Dragon spacecraft that has performed three unmanned missions to the ISS since October 2012. NASA hopes to have the craft ready for manned missions by 2017 or 2018.

NASA's space shuttle program was retired in 2011, and since then, the United States has relied on Russia to ferry its astronauts to and from the ISS at a cost of $60 million per person.

In late April, due to heightened political tension between Russia and the United States and sanctions imposed by the latter on the former due to actions taken against Ukraine, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin threatened to stop letting the U.S. make use of its space shuttles.

"The United States introduced sanctions against our space industry... We warned them, we will reply to statements with statements, to actions with actions," Rogozin wrote on Twitter. "I propose that the United States delivers its astronauts to the ISS with the help of a trampoline."

Apart from SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corp. also have contracts with NASA to construct space taxis. It seems the U.S. won't need a trampoline after all.

Source: Wired

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Exciting stuff, how do those other launche stages work though? Do they land themselves after use as well like they have shown in the demonstrations so each section is reusable or do those still get wasted or burned up?

Someone has been playing too much Kerbal Space Program.

Capsules seem like bit of a regression, no? This presenter has all the charisma of the misbegotten offspring of Rainman and Urkle (normal type, not Stefan).

I can't wait until Branson finally brings his offerings to show.

evilnancyreagan:
Someone has been playing too much Kerbal Space Program.

Capsules seem like bit of a regression, no? This presenter has all the charisma of the misbegotten offspring of Rainman and Urkle (normal type, not Stefan).

I can't wait until Branson finally brings his offerings to show.

I'm just glad the U.S. won't have to rely on trampolines. I wonder what Russia was thinking as it watched that live stream. "Bye bye hundreds of millions of American dollars a year."

Rhykker:

evilnancyreagan:
Someone has been playing too much Kerbal Space Program.

Capsules seem like bit of a regression, no? This presenter has all the charisma of the misbegotten offspring of Rainman and Urkle (normal type, not Stefan).

I can't wait until Branson finally brings his offerings to show.

I'm just glad the U.S. won't have to rely on trampolines. I wonder what Russia was thinking as it watched that live stream. "Bye bye hundreds of millions of American dollars a year."

I tuned in a little late but, there was no mention of where the rockets and motors were coming from to put their capsules into space.

J Tyran:
Exciting stuff, how do those other launch stages work though? Do they land themselves after use as well like they have shown in the demonstrations so each section is reusable or do those still get wasted or burned up?

At the moment, SpaceX is still working on fully recovering the first stage of the Falcon 9. They're pretty close, obviously, but there are still some bugs and techniques to be worked out before they can do it reliably.

The second stage is currently unrecoverable, as I recall, but in the case of the Falcon, it's a fraction of the cost of the first stage, so while losing it isn't exactly optimal, it's also not anywhere near as bad as the current practice of just throwing away the entire rocket after one launch. To put in in perspective, the second stage has one Merlin engine, while the first stage has NINE of them.

Regardless, by the time NASA bothers to certify Dragon V2, SpaceX will (in theory) be recovering the first stage and the capsule itself for rapid turnaround with minimal servicing.

As for Russia, SpaceX makes their own engines, so they're not buying them from the Russians like a few other manufacturers do.

As for Richard Branson, or should I say, Burt Rutan... Virgin Galactic is a tourist attraction, not a launch system. They may eventually be able to launch some very small payloads, but the system they're looking to operate is suborbital.

Raesvelg:

J Tyran:
Exciting stuff, how do those other launch stages work though? Do they land themselves after use as well like they have shown in the demonstrations so each section is reusable or do those still get wasted or burned up?

At the moment, SpaceX is still working on fully recovering the first stage of the Falcon 9. They're pretty close, obviously, but there are still some bugs and techniques to be worked out before they can do it reliably.

The second stage is currently unrecoverable, as I recall, but in the case of the Falcon, it's a fraction of the cost of the first stage, so while losing it isn't exactly optimal, it's also not anywhere near as bad as the current practice of just throwing away the entire rocket after one launch. To put in in perspective, the second stage has one Merlin engine, while the first stage has NINE of them.

Regardless, by the time NASA bothers to certify Dragon V2, SpaceX will (in theory) be recovering the first stage and the capsule itself for rapid turnaround with minimal servicing.

As for Russia, SpaceX makes their own engines, so they're not buying them from the Russians like a few other manufacturers do.

As for Richard Branson, or should I say, Burt Rutan... Virgin Galactic is a tourist attraction, not a launch system. They may eventually be able to launch some very small payloads, but the system they're looking to operate is suborbital.

Okay so they are attempting to be able to land and reuse one of the largest and presumably most complicated and expensive parts, the first stage with the other stages burning up and then landing and reusing the capsule itself? I guess the other stages are just fuel tanks with fewer motors on with the first having more engines making it more expensive to build, still a big difference from anything in the past.

evilnancyreagan:

Rhykker:

evilnancyreagan:
Someone has been playing too much Kerbal Space Program.

Capsules seem like bit of a regression, no? This presenter has all the charisma of the misbegotten offspring of Rainman and Urkle (normal type, not Stefan).

I can't wait until Branson finally brings his offerings to show.

I'm just glad the U.S. won't have to rely on trampolines. I wonder what Russia was thinking as it watched that live stream. "Bye bye hundreds of millions of American dollars a year."

I tuned in a little late but, there was no mention of where the rockets and motors were coming from to put their capsules into space.

We will be using Falcon rockets as soon as Elon finishes Suing the ULA and Fed to break their monopoly that relies on Russian made lift stages.

SpaceX has already landed one stage safely in the ocean (which was unrecoverable due to storms) and will move progressively towards landing the initial stage on solid ground.

As far as the capsule seeming regressive. Until we have a form of propulsion or a better understanding/ability to warp space time, having a "shuttle" of sorts is useless. SpaceX is on fire right now, and to be perfectly honest Elon himself is doing so much to turn the idea of what's possible for private industry on it's head.

Had the internet been around with Tesla was doing his work, him and his inventions might not have met the fate that they did.

We are running headlong towards the singularity and the next 20-30 years are going to be awe inspiring.

Provided we don't off ourselves, or become obliterated by meteors/space armadas.

EDIT: And yeah, the first stage and the capsule are the money parts. Intermediate stages are more or less about thrust maintenance.

evilnancyreagan:
Someone has been playing too much Kerbal Space Program.

Capsules seem like bit of a regression, no? This presenter has all the charisma of the misbegotten offspring of Rainman and Urkle (normal type, not Stefan).

I can't wait until Branson finally brings his offerings to show.

Capsules only seem like a regression because they were used in Apollo and we got used to the space shuttle since then. But being in the shape of a plane doesn't really gain you anything other than the ability to glide, which is useful if you want to land on a runway, but it's not the only way to land.

The most important thing about the Space Shuttle was that it was reusable, and it is in that regard that Dragon is a step forward. The Shuttle still needed a huge amount of servicing between flights, and the giant orange fuel tank was not reusable, and if you wanted to land you needed somewhere with a giant runway. With Dragon you just put more fuel in and you're good to go, plus you can land pretty much wherever you like.

Flights with the current unmanned capsule to the ISS are already about 1/3rd the price of a Shuttle mission, and once the Falcon's first stage is reusable even that will come down dramatically.

So although firing a capsule into orbit on top of a big firework may look kind of old fashioned, it's actually the most efficient and sensible way to go to space.

Britpoint:

evilnancyreagan:
Someone has been playing too much Kerbal Space Program.

Capsules seem like bit of a regression, no? This presenter has all the charisma of the misbegotten offspring of Rainman and Urkle (normal type, not Stefan)

Capsules only seem like a regression because they were used in Apollo and we got used to the space shuttle since then. But being in the shape of a plane doesn't really gain you anything other than the ability to glide, which is useful if you want to land on a runway, but it's not the only way to land.

The most important thing about the Space Shuttle was that it was reusable, and it is in that regard that Dragon is a step forward. The Shuttle still needed a huge amount of servicing between flights, and the giant orange fuel tank was not reusable, and if you wanted to land you needed somewhere with a giant runway. With Dragon you just put more fuel in and you're good to go, plus you can land pretty much wherever you like.

Flights with the current unmanned capsule to the ISS are already about 1/3rd the price of a Shuttle mission, and once the Falcon's first stage is reusable even that will come down dramatically.

So although firing a capsule into orbit on top of a big firework may look kind of old fashioned, it's actually the most efficient and sensible way to go to space.

Yeah the Space Shuttle seemed like a good idea in theory, but it was massively expensive to operate. For taking payloads into space it cost way more than the non-reusable rockets they use now.

Alfador_VII:

Yeah the Space Shuttle seemed like a good idea in theory, but it was massively expensive to operate. For taking payloads into space it cost way more than the non-reusable rockets they use now.

Exactly. And, as Raesvelg pointed out, the Dragon capsules and Falcon first-stage are recoverable and reuseable. SpaceX is working on a method for recovering the second stage as well.

The reason capsules are thought of as disposable is pre-shuttle era, they relied upon ablative plating for reentry. But the Dragon capsules use something more like shuttle tiles that don't burn away.

J Tyran:

Okay so they are attempting to be able to land and reuse one of the largest and presumably most complicated and expensive parts, the first stage with the other stages burning up and then landing and reusing the capsule itself? I guess the other stages are just fuel tanks with fewer motors on with the first having more engines making it more expensive to build, still a big difference from anything in the past.

Other stage, singular; the Falcon 9 is a two stage system. Basically the first stage does the vast majority of the work, and the second stage handles the orbital insertion. They're looking at ways to recover the second stage, but to be frank, I don't think they'll manage to pull it off. Getting the first stage back is one thing, but the second will be going much faster, with less thrust to cancel its velocity if it attempts a powered recovery.

Still, with the capsule itself being reusable, two outta three ain't bad.

 

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