SpaceX Dragon spacecraft
On 16 September 2014 NASA selected SpaceXís Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft to fly American astronauts to the International Space Station under the Commercial Crew Program. Under the $2.6 billion contract, SpaceX will launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop the Falcon 9 launch vehicle from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. As a modern, 21st century manned spacecraft, Crew Dragon will be capable of carrying up to seven crewmembers, landing propulsively almost anywhere on Earth, and refueling and flying again for rapid reusability. Dragon was designed from the beginning to carry humans, and the upgraded human-rated vehicle will be one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown. The vehicle holds seats for 7 passengers, and includes an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that provides a comfortable environment for crewmembers.
Crew Dragonís powerful launch escape system, the first of its kind, will provide escape capability from the time the crew enters the vehicle all the way to orbit. Should an emergency occur during launch, eight SuperDraco engines built into the side walls of the Dragon spacecraft will produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry astronauts to safety.
Dragon is a free-flying spacecraft designed to deliver both cargo and people to orbiting destinations. Dragon made history in 2012 when it became the first commercial spacecraft in history to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and safely return cargo to Earth, a feat previously achieved only by governments. It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth. Currently Dragon carries cargo to space, but it was designed from the beginning to carry humans. Under an agreement with NASA, SpaceX is now developing the refinements that will enable Dragon to fly crew.
The pressurized section of the spacecraft, also referred to as the capsule, is designed to carry both cargo and humans into space. Towards the base of the capsule but outside the pressurized structure are the Draco thrusters, Dragon's guidance navigation and control (GNC) bay and Dragonís advanced heat shield.
Dragonís trunk supports the spacecraft during ascent to space, carries unpressurized cargo and houses Dragonís solar arrays. The trunk and solar arrays remain attached to Dragon until shortly before reentry to Earthís atmosphere, when they are jettisoned.
he Dragon spacecraft has three configurations to meet a variety of needs: cargo, crew and DragonLab. To ensure a rapid transition from cargo to crew capability, the cargo and crew configurations of Dragon are almost identical. This commonality simplifies the human rating process, allowing systems critical to crew and space station safety to be fully tested on unmanned cargo flights. With DragonLab, essentially the same spacecraft can be used as a platform for in-space technology demonstrations and experiments.
Dragon is the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and currently the only cargo spacecraft flying capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth. Dragon accommodates pressurized cargo in the capsule as well as unpressurized cargo in its trunk. The racks are a honeycomb carbon-aluminum construction designed for efficient packing in a zero-gravity environment. They accommodate a variety of standard-size NASA cargo bags as well as freezers for carrying materials such as biological samples.