SpaceX Unveils Its First Manned Spacecraft

By Carl Engelking | May 30, 2014 12:01 pm

An artist’s rendering of SpaceX’s Dragon V2 spacecraft. (Credit: SpaceX)

In 2012, SpaceX’s Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station and return to Earth. On Thursday, the California-based company unveiled its Dragon V2 craft, which is designed to carry another kind of cargo into space: seven astronauts.

The Dragon V2 is remarkable in a number of ways, but its reusability is what SpaceX founder Elon Musk says will change the economics of space travel. After docking with the ISS, the Dragon V2 is designed to return to Earth and touch down anywhere on land with the accuracy of a helicopter.

Then, the ship will just need refueling and it’ll be ready for another mission.

“As long as we continue to throw away rockets and spacecraft, we will never have true access to space,” Musk said during the V2 unveiling Thursday. “It will always be incredibly expensive. If aircraft were thrown away after each flight, very few would be able to fly.”

Other Notable Features

The Dragon V2 is equipped with eight SuperDraco engines, each capable of producing 16,000 pounds of thrust. More notably, the engines were constructed using a 3-D printer, and once the craft flies they would become the first printed rocket engines in operation.

The V2 is designed to automatically dock with the ISS without the aid of the orbiter’s docking arm, another first. The inside of the Dragon V2 has also been re-envisioned: Rather than countless buttons and nobs, the craft’s control panel is a Star Trek-like touchscreen that pulls down from the ceiling.

Crucial Timing

The Dragon V2 is still a few years from launching its first manned test flight. However, the United States is in the market for an independent taxi service to space. Since retiring its space shuttle program in 2011, the U.S. has had to shell out $70 million per seat for its astronauts to ride on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The current agreement with Russia expires in 2018, which could be just in time to foster a new partnership with an independent service.

SpaceX is competing with companies such as Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin to become the first commercial company to transport astronauts into space, possibly as early as 2017. Check out the video below to see the Dragon V2’s capabilities.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration
  • Bearpants42

    I let my son stay up late to watch the live feed and I showed the video to each of my classes today. It’s a huge leap forward for manned space flight.

    • JohannaHolkhamred321

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      computer . She has been fired for 7 months but last month her paycheck was
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  • SearingTruth

    People need to understand that this is simply a mock up, it has none of the advanced technologies advertised installed in it, much less tested.

    I don’t know why so many websites fail to mention this. It’s as if I went into my shop and made a cardboard mock up of a really cool car. It would look really cool, but would essentially be nothing.

    I understand the marketing and publicity ploy from SpaceX, but not the lack of truth from the media, especially science websites.

    And don’t get me wrong, I am pulling for SpaceX to succeed in all their ventures, I just don’t like flat out lying.

    • Terry Stetler

      Actually, you are incorrect.

      The Dragon V2 at this event was announced as being flight hardware, and Musk stated during the post vent Q&A that it was destined for a launch.

      Since Dragon V2 test articles will be used for the DragonFly propulsive landing tests at their McGregor Texas site starting this year, and for the pad and in-launch SuperDraco abort tests at KSC and Vandenberg AFB, this likely means it’ll be used for the unmanned orbital test next year (2015).

      • SearingTruth

        I understand your confusion, because Mr. Musk proclaimed before the unveiling that the V2 was “not a mock up”.

        But the truth is that he was claiming the skeletal structure presented was not a mock up, and would be the final structure flown into space.

        That may or may not be true. But as I said, none of the advanced technologies advertised were even installed on the mock up. There is just supposed to be space and fittings that will allow them to be installed.

        Just imagine, if any of the claims made for the final V2 were actually in place there would have been video of the craft actually working, or at least test firings on the ground.

        Just imaging how impressive it would be if there were actual video of the V2 with the SuperDraco thrusters firing, even if it were a ground test. And how much more impressive it would be if the V2 were dropped from a plane and landed with them.

        The reason there aren’t any is because the V2 is not at the stage of development where even these fundamental features can be demonstrated.

        Like I said, I’m a SpaceX fan. I just want to keep them honest, and make sure people understand the true state of V2 development.

        • WeaponZero

          You are again incorrect, this is NOT a mockup, this is flight ready hardware. The Dragon V2 is scheduled to do live tests of the “abort sequence” soon. During that you will see live footage of the SuperDraco firing on the craft.

          • SearingTruth

            Hopefully that is true.

            But you are only emphasizing my point.

            The mock up displayed is just that, a mock up with no functionality whatsoever.

            An “abort sequence” is the most fundamental of rocket engine tests.

            And the mock up didn’t even have the engines installed.

            Hopefully they will fit and the software will work.

            But the fact that SpaceX is pretending everything is done and ready to go on the V2, even though the engines have never even been installed or tested to such a limited degree, shows they are simply lying.

            I don’t like that.

          • WeaponZero

            The engines are installed. If you look at the mockup video and compare it with the live video, the engines are on the side of the craft and are not directly visible but hidden underneath the shell.

            And this is NOT a rocket, so I don’t know how you can say this is standard. An abort sequence on the spacecraft is something new. On a rocket you abort the launch, this is an abort of the landing.

            How it works is all 8 engines fire allowing it to abort the landing and then re-land using parachutes.

            Again your making accusations that are simply not true.

          • SearingTruth

            So now you wish to argue that a V2 mock up, announced with great fanfare, had untested engines installed, but hidden from view?


          • WeaponZero

            It is NOT a mockup, what you are seeing is the real hardware that will be used during testing.

            The engines are hidden from direct view, but if you look at some footage from the right angles, you can see in the black parts on the side 2 holes which is where the engines are.

            Edit: also to add, the SuperDraco engines have been tested, 2 youtube videos of the tests exist

          • SearingTruth

            Hold on.

            Before you were advancing the idea that the V2 was ready to go.

            When in fact what was displayed was simply a shell (with hidden engines), and no functionality at all.

            And that at some time in the future they would be tested and proven?


          • WeaponZero

            No, I have been consistent since the beginning. The Dragon V2 shown is fully operational test vehicle. NOT a mockup,

            All functionality is there, it is not a shell (the engines are hidden in the shell). It is a fully working vehicle.

            And yes, the procedures for these things take time. They will show off some on earth tests soon. Next year it will do vacuum testing/deliveries and in 2016 it will fly people to space.

          • SearingTruth


            So just to be clear.

            The V2 presented by Mr. Musk was fully operational, and ready to go into space?

            As he said?

          • WeaponZero

            No, it is fully operational. But it has to go through standard testing procedures like all things. You don’t just throw it into space and hope for the best. It will go through a serious of tests first and only thrown into space next year.

          • SearingTruth


            Could you please post a link to anything showing a V2, with engines, actually working?

            And being “tested”.

          • WeaponZero

            It just got unveiled. You will see tests videos soon enough. But these things take time to get all the test ready. Remember you can’t just do a test randomly, they need a lot of preparation to make sure they get maximum data on each test.

          • SearingTruth

            Indeed, designing and deploying spacecraft is incredibly difficult.

            But Mr. Musk said they were done.

            And that was a lie.

            The V2 mock up is nowhere near to done.

          • WeaponZero

            He didn’t say they were done with testing, he said that what they have in front of them is the real thing, Aka not a mock up.

          • SearingTruth

            With no pictures or video of the V2 doing anything but sitting on a stage beside him?

            He is a liar, but very good businessman.

          • WeaponZero

            You will have pictures and video of it doing stuff, but this is an unveiling. His company does business with NASA and private firms, to them these unveiling don’t matter. The reason he does it is to gain people’s interest in space. Hence why he started SpaceX in the first place.

            At end of the day, your the one who is lying because your making accusations which you have no proof of.

          • Chris Mason

            They can’t unveil if it blows up in testing. It’s like the reason people watch nascar.

          • Terry Stetler

            You really are pedantic

            The pad abort test was to be this month but was delayed due to the bad US winter and a radar fire at KSC that delayed other launches, and not just SpaceX’s. Once the remaing 2 SpaceX launches are cleared you’ll have your video. After that comes a full launch with an abort at high altitude at Vandenberg. The Dragon V2 for these is already built; engines, avionics etc.

            Landing tests with the DragonFly projects V2 vehicle will begin at McGregor as soon as the F9R Dev program moves to New Mexico later this year. It still has a few flights to go.

          • WeaponZero

            My link went into moderation, do a google image search for:

            spacex dragon v2 wsbtv

            The first image, you can see the 2 holes where the engine is

          • SearingTruth

            I looked and didn’t find any pictures or video showing actual V2 tests with any engines, or technology, new or old.

          • WeaponZero

            The picture I am showing is a picture of the engines from the outside. The SuperDraco engines have been tested in a fixed location, not on the craft. The Dragon V2 they showed again is a working model and you will see videos of it going through live tests in the coming months.

          • SearingTruth

            Testing rocket engines clamped down on a testing facility says nothing about its ability to work in any given structure.

            Especially one as small as the V2.

            As I’ve said before, that’s why Mr. Musk can’t show any real videos of the V2 working, even clamped to the ground.

          • WeaponZero

            You need patience. For now he just did the unveil of the working product, now it needs testing which takes time.

          • SearingTruth

            But SpaceX claimed it was already done.

            I have great faith that they will succeed.

            But not with an empty shell, and no engines, and dishonest propaganda.

            I never allow my hope to triumph reality.

          • WeaponZero

            That is not an empty shell, that is a working model and the engines are inside.

            Why do you keep spreading dishonest propaganda that it is a shell with no engines? Do you have any proof?

          • SearingTruth


            There are no pictures or video of a V2 operating at any level.

            There aren’t even any pictures or video of it clamped down with engines installed, and firing.

            My goodness, there aren’t even any records of it clamped down with engines installed and not firing.

          • WeaponZero

            So you admit your making just spreading baseless nonsense?

          • martykayzee

            Are you the Tea Party faith-based space expert?

  • GamerFromJump

    But, you know, they didn’t build that…


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