SpaceX Reveals Crew Dragon Capsule - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Government
Commentary
9/12/2015
11:05 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
50%
50%

SpaceX Reveals Crew Dragon Capsule

SpaceX just revealed details about what might be the world's first truly reusable spacecraft, dubbed the Crew Dragon.

10 NASA Images That Will Inspire You
10 NASA Images That Will Inspire You
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

During an interview with Stephen Colbert this week, Elon Musk said SpaceX was two to three years away from a reusable spacecraft that could carry people back and forth in space. SpaceX has just given us a new view of that capsule, the Crew Dragon.

The Dragon capsule was the first commercial craft to bring supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), and the new crewed version, when perfected, should be able to take people there (or in other places in orbit), return to Earth, and land safely on the ground, so that it can be refueled and used again.

In theory, Space X will use its Falcon Rocket to boost the Dragon capsule into space. Both the Falcon and the Dragon will then use rockets to land safely back on Earth for reuse.

It is the soft, safe landing, of course, that SpaceX has been struggling with recently, but the belief is that these issues can be overcome. When it does overcome them, Musk said on the Colbert show, space flight might not be much "much more expensive than air travel." While that might be slight exaggeration, it is the custom-made, throw-away nature of space travel that makes it so expensive.

[This could help the company with its plan to develop a space Internet, too. Read Elon Musk, SpaceX Rocket Into Space Internet Race.]

Dragon's reusability makes trips to the space station for both science and tourism much more feasible. When you look at the capsule and the way SpaceX markets it, you can see that tourism is on the company's mind.

This is the cabin:

(Image: SpaceX)

(Image: SpaceX)

Here is how SpaceX describes it:

Crew Dragon was designed to be an enjoyable ride. With four windows, passengers can take in views of Earth, the Moon, and the wider Solar System right from their seats, which are made from the highest-grade carbon fiber and Alcantara cloth.

You can almost hear Ricardo Montalban talking about rich, Corinthian leather.

Another thing that lets you know this is for commercial travel is the cockpit. No control sticks. No huge instrument panel. There are some touch screens, and the crew can fly the ship with those touch screens in an emergency, but the ship is intended to fly itself or be controlled from the ground. This isn't just a spaceship. It is a space limo (or at least a space Chrysler).

Of course, there's nothing wrong with that.

We should assume that commercial space travel will be luxurious and beautiful at first, before carriers inevitably pack us in like sardines and serve us peanuts, as they do in commercial air travel. But while the inside is all about style, the actual ship still is all about business. It features a one-of-kind escape system that will allow astronauts to escape during an accident before launch (always a problem in the past) and even all the way into orbit. It also features an improved heat shield for both comfort and safety.

Most importantly, it will land back on the Earth "propulsively," meaning that, instead of splashing down like old Apollo missions or gliding to Earth like the Space Shuttle, the ship will slow its descent with rockets and land with the "precision of a helicopter."

Theoretically, that would allow the ship to be quickly serviced, refueled, and launched again. As SpaceX says on its site:

As long as we continue to throw away rockets and spacecraft, we will never have true access to space. After landing, Dragon v2 can be refueled and flown multiple times, drastically lowering the cost of space travel.

Despite the promise of propulsive landing, in January SpaceX confirmed that the first crewed flights will be "splash down" landings as the company continues to perfect the propulsive landings. Uncrewed test flights of the new vehicle will start next year, and the first crewed flights are promised in 2017.

That means we're unlikely to see a crewed fight enter orbit and return propulsively until 2018 at the earliest, but that would still be inside Musk's window.

If all goes according to plan, we could start seeing routine commercial flights, or at least far cheaper science flights, within this decade, which is a pretty startling concept.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/15/2015 | 12:54:40 PM
Re: first to be featured in sci-fi movies
@Gary_El- I don't know. I feel like Musk is demonstrating a lot of advances in a lot of areas. He just hasn't PERFECTED anything yet. The Tesla car is an incredible piece of engineering and a wonderful car. It just needs a better better and to be made cheaper. 

Falcon rockets were oh so close to landing safely. they're learning.

They are currently breaking ground on a pilot hyperloop project.

I think he fails in public while other people fail (or even fail to try) in private. I think he will prove to fail up in the end or at least the work he does will allow others to succeed. I like someone who isn't afraid to think big and fail.
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

News
Becoming a Self-Taught Cybersecurity Pro
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  6/9/2021
News
Ancestry's DevOps Strategy to Control Its CI/CD Pipeline
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  6/4/2021
Slideshows
IT Leadership: 10 Ways to Unleash Enterprise Innovation
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  6/8/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
This new report from InformationWeek explores what we've learned over the past year, critical trends around ITOps and SecOps, and where leaders are focusing their time and efforts to support a growing digital economy. Download it today!
Video
Current Issue
Planning Your Digital Transformation Roadmap
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
Slideshows
Flash Poll