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SpaceX Posts New Details of Dragon Spacecraft

Status Report From: SpaceX
Posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2007

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The Dragon spacecraft is a pressurized capsule used for Earth to LEO transport of pressurized cargo, unpressurized cargo, and/or crew members. Initiated internally by SpaceX in 2005, Dragon will be utilized to fulfill our NASA COTS contract for demonstration of cargo re-supply of the ISS. The Dragon capsule is comprised of 3 main elements: the Nosecone, which protects the vessel and the docking adaptor during ascent; the Pressurized Section, which houses the crew and/or pressurized cargo; and the Service Section, which contains avionics, the RCS system, parachutes, and other support infrastructure.

In addition a Trunk is included, which provides for the stowage of unpressurized cargo and will support Dragon’s solar arrays and thermal radiators.

DRAGON HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Fully autonomous rendezvous and docking with manual override capability in crewed configuration
  • Pressurized Cargo/Crew capacity of >2500 kg and 14 cubic meters
  • Down-cargo capability (equal to up-cargo)
  • Supports up to 7 passengers in Crew configuration
  • Two-fault tolerant avionics system with extensive heritage
  • Reaction control system with 18 MMH/NTO thrusters designed and built in-house; these thrusters are used for both attitude control and orbital maneuvering
  • 1200 kg of propellant supports a safe mission profile from sub-orbital insertion to ISS rendezvous to reentry
  • Integral common berthing mechanism, with LIDS or APAS support if required
  • Designed for water landing under parachute for ocean recovery
  • Lifting re-entry for landing precision & low-g’s
  • Ablative, high-performance heat shield and sidewall thermal protection

To ensure a rapid transition from cargo to crew capability, the cargo and crew configurations of Dragon are almost identical, with the exception of the crew escape system, the life support system and onboard controls that allow the crew to take over control from the flight computer when needed.  This focus on commonality minimizes the design effort and simplifies the human rating process, allowing systems critical to Dragon crew safety and ISS safety to be fully tested on uncrewed demonstration flights.

For cargo launches the inside of the capsule is outfitted with a modular cargo rack system designed to accommodate pressurized cargo in standard sizes and form factors.  For crewed launches, the interior is outfitted with crew couches, controls with manual override capability and upgraded life-support.

Demo

Date

Duration

Objectives

1

Q3 2008

5 hours

Launch and separate from Falcon 9, orbit Earth, transmit telemetry, receive commands, demonstrate orbital maneuvering and thermal control, re-enter atmosphere, and recover Dragon capsule

2

Q2 2009

10 days

Full, long-duration system check-out, followed by ISS rendezvous simulation with the Falcon 9 upper stage.  Dragon will perform  approach, rendezvous, and breakaway operations with the stage.

3

Q3 2009

3 days

Full cargo mission profile including mate to ISS, with empty capsule

Additional Images and animations

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