Science & technology
New capsule to ferry astronauts to space unveiled
Publish Date: May 30, 2014
New capsule to ferry astronauts to space unveiled
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (R) unveils SpaceXs new seven-seat Dragon V2 spacecraft, at a press conference in Hawthorne, California. PHOTO/AFP
  • mail
  • img
newvision

LOS ANGELES - A sleek, white gumdrop-shaped space capsule that aims to carry up to seven astronauts to the International Space Station and return to land anywhere on Earth has been unveiled by SpaceX.

The Dragon V2, short for version two, is the first attempt by a private company to restore Americans' ability to send people to the orbiting space station in the wake of the space shuttle program's retirement in 2011.

"It's all around, I think, really a big leap forward in technology. It really takes things to the next level," said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

SpaceX is competing with other companies -- including Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin -- to be the first commercial outfit to take astronauts to space, possibly as early as 2017.

Until then, the world's astronauts must rely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft at a cost of $70 million per seat.

The Dragon V2 was shown for the first time at a jam-packed evening press conference in Hawthorne, California.

The shiny Dragon V2 sat on a white stage floor, as a scorched Dragon cargo capsule was suspended above, bearing the blackened markings of a capsule that had returned to Earth from orbit.


Retired NASA astronaut and current SpaceX engineer Garrett Reisman stands inside the new spacecraft. PHOTO/AFP
 


The sleek capsule was unveiled at a press conference in Hawthorne, California. PHOTO/AFP

SpaceX's Dragon capsule in 2012 became the first private spacecraft to carry supplies to the ISS and back.

Since then, Orbital Sciences has followed with its Cygnus, a capsule shaped like a beer keg that can carry supplies to the space station but burns upon re-entry to Earth's atmosphere.

Musk said a key feature of the Dragon V2 is that it will be able to "land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter."

The crew spacecraft will be able to use rocket propulsion and deploy legs to land, instead of using parachutes to make an ocean splash-landing the way the cargo capsule does.

It will however still have parachutes that it can use for a landing in case any engine problems are detected before touchdown on Earth.

The V2 also carries an improved heat shield and will be able to autonomously dock with the space station, instead of needing the space station's robotic arm to catch it and pull it in.

"That is a significant upgrade as well," Musk said.


The new manned space capsule will ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. PHOTO/AFP
 


SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (L) and guests (unidentified) sit inside SpaceX's seven seat Dragon V2 spacecraft. PHOTO/AFP

Musk touted the reusability of the Dragon V2, allowing it to cut back on expensive space journeys.

"You can just reload propellant and then fly again. This is extremely important for revolutionizing access to space," Musk said.

"Because as long as we continue to throw away rockets and spacecraft, we will never have true access to space. It will always be incredibly expensive," he added.

"If aircraft were thrown away with each flight, nobody would be able to fly."

The Internet entrepreneur and billionaire co-founder of PayPal did not say when the Dragon V2's first test flight would take place.

Ever since the US space shuttle program ended in 2011, the world's astronauts have depended on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to reach the ISS, an orbiting outpost built and maintained by more than a dozen countries.

SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin have all received millions of dollars in NASA funds to help them develop next-generation spacecraft that will someday carry astronauts to space.

SpaceX has said its crew capsule may be able to reach the ISS with astronauts aboard by 2017.

Meanwhile, NASA says it is focusing on building a new deep space capsule that could take humans to Mars by the 2030s.

AFP

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Apple co-founder Wozniak skeptical on smartwatches, Google Glass
Steve Wozniak says he is no fan of smartwatches and believes Google Glass will fail as he cautioned not to expect the company he co-founded, Apple, to always lead the way into new technologies....
Hackers trick way into ICANN computers
The private agency that acts as a gatekeeper for the Internet on Wednesday said that hackers tricked their way into its computers....
Venus probe ends after it runs out of fuel
The space probe that spent eight years carrying out a detailed analysis of Venus is out of fuel, and is set to die....
Dutch privacy watchdog probes Facebook
A Dutch government-affiliated watchdog has said it is probing changes in Facebook's privacy policy, the latest skirmish in a wider fight over the commercial use of online personal data...
NASA finds evidence of
METHANE, a gas that on Earth comes mainly from living organisms, has been measured for the first time making a sudden spike on Mars, leaving scientists puzzled about its origin...
Google constitution archive adds Arabic documents
GOOGLE'S online archive of the world's constitutions on Monday launched an Arabic-language version with searchable documents from 54 countries...
Do you agree with the ban on the export of maids?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter