SpaceX Draco Thurster Succesfully Completes Qualification Testing


Precision rocket engine to control Dragon spacecraft on approach to International Space Station

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully completed a rigorous qualification of its new Draco spacecraft thruster and Draco propulsion tank at the SpaceX Test Facility in McGregor, Texas.

The Draco thruster test series included 42 firings with over 4,600 pulses of varying lengths and was performed in a vacuum test chamber to simulate the space environment. The series resulted in a total firing time of over 50 minutes on a single thruster.

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, recently selected by NASA as part of their Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract to carry cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and return cargo to Earth, utilizes 18 Draco thrusters to provide precision control in orbit and while approaching the ISS.





he new SpaceX Draco thruster engine undergoing qualification test firing at the SpaceX Test Facility in McGregor, Texas. The Dragon spacecraft uses a total of 18 Draco thrusters for maneuvering, attitude control, and to initiate the capsule’s return to Earth. First flight of the Dragon is scheduled for this year. Credit: SpaceX.


“The Draco thrusters allow Dragon to maneuver in close proximity to the ISS in preparation for berthing or docking,” said Tom Mueller VP Propulsion, SpaceX. “Maximum control during these procedures is critical for the safety of the station and its inhabitants.”

Draco thrusters generate approximately 90 pounds of thrust using storable propellants with long on-orbit lifetimes. The use of these propellants provides the option for a crew-carrying Dragon spacecraft to remain berthed at the ISS for up to a year.




Graphic showing SpaceX Draco thruster engines firing to separate the Dragon spacecraft from the Falcon 9 second stage. Dragon uses a total of 18 Draco thrusters for maneuvering, attitude control, and to initiate the capsule’s return to Earth. First flight of the Dragon is scheduled for this year. Credit: SpaceX.


SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to make its first flight in 2009 as part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Under COTS, SpaceX will demonstrate the Falcon 9 / Dragon system’s ability to approach, berth, and transport cargo to and from the ISS. Following the demonstration of these capabilities, SpaceX will fly twelve cargo flights to the ISS for NASA’s CRS contract.

Falcon 9, SpaceX’s medium lift rocket, is scheduled for its inaugural flight later this year from SpaceX’s launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.