SpaceX brings comfort and safety to astronauts with Crew Dragon capsule
– News of August 9, 2018 –
The first mission of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program will be conducted by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule. The company relies on the Dragon spacecraft. This cargo version of the spacecraft was first developed internally by SpaceX before being integrated into the COTS program. Since its first test flight in 2012, it has led fifteen missions to the ISS. SpaceX relies on a relatively solid base but things are very different in the end when it has to flight cargo or men. On June 28, 2015 a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spaceship exploded. The spaceship could have survived by deploying its parachutes but this situation had not been planned in the on-board computer. With astronauts on board, the loss of life would most likely have been deplored.
One of the most fundamental differences between the cargo version and the inhabited version of the spacecraft concerns precisely this kind of situation. One of the biggest risks associated with manned flights is the launcher, which usually contains hundreds or even thousands of tons of fuel, which turns it into a giant bomb if something goes wrong. Fortunately, one can often detect the signs of an anomaly on a launcher before a disaster occurs, which leaves a few seconds to react. From the beginning of the history of spaceflight, the Soviets and Americans have turned to the concept of life-saving towers. The idea is simple : at the top of the space capsule, a small rocket is installed. It is responsible for very quickly remove the capsule launcher in case of anomaly. This is a similar system on Lockheed Martin’s Orion spacecraft.
SpaceX and Boeing have chosen to slightly modify their concept : rather than having the engines of escape in traction, they have integrated it into spaceships and they work in propulsion. SpaceX has developed the Super Draco engine for this. Crew Dragon will be equipped with eight Super Draco engines, grouped two by two. They burn hydrazine and their thrust is scalable. SpaceX had the idea to push its capsule with the help of retro-rockets, one of the specialties of the company. But it’s finally two parachutes who will take care of it. Crew Dragon is intended to be at least partially reusable, always to lower the costs of access to space. The spacecraft consists of a capsule capable of housing four astronauts, and a service module where take place the solar panels and radiators necessary for the power supply of the spacecraft.
Onboard SpaceX’s spacecraft, American astronauts are expected to enjoy a welcome comfort, after years in the comfortless russian Soyuz capsules. They will have an appreciable volume, touch screens and leather seats. In terms of safety, another very important element of Crew Dragon is present on the rocket on which it will fly, the Falcon 9 Block 5. It was designed to offer maximum reliability, reducing the risk of accidents similar to that from 2015. Crew Dragon is expected to fly for the first time unmanned in November 2018. The first manned flight is scheduled to take place in April 2019.
SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule will take astronauts into space in 2019
– News of August 7, 2018 –
SpaceX is expected to launch a first unmanned flight of its space capsule Crew Dragon in November this year. Elon Musk’s company is therefore three months behind schedule. In April 2019, a crew of two astronauts will board the space capsule. If the dates are confirmed, it will be necessary to salute the efficiency of SpaceX. The company has indeed received much less money from NASA than its competitor Boeing to develop its space capsule. It will however launch its capsule first. If all goes well, this should quickly pave the way for ISS service flights. Without further delay, the United States of America will finally regain an independent capacity for manned flights in less than a year.
Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will make the first flight aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule. For the first time since 2011, an American crew will fly into an American spaceship. Behnken and Hurley are both veterans of the space shuttle program. But we imagine that the experience will be very different aboard a space capsule.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule is a lighter vehicle than the Boeing Starliner capsule. It is designed to be fully autonomous, but astronauts on board will obviously be able to take control. Four large parachutes will allow it to bring the crews gently to the ocean. It relies on SuperDraco engines developed internally to allow it to escape in case of trouble with the launcher. It is probably the first space vehicle for which we can say that aesthetics has counted in the development : the combinations and the capsule are visually refined.
SpaceX will not equip the Dragon V2 space capsule with retrorockets
– News of July 25, 2017 –
Elon Musk announced last Wednesday on Twitter that SpaceX is abandoning the idea of a retrorocket landing for the Dragon capsules. He simply said that he no longer considers retrorockets as really useful for Dragon. The capsule will land at sea using parachute. This announcement still raises questions about SpaceX’s Martian ambitions : indeed, the retrorocket landing is one of the prerequisites of the program.
The development of the inhabited version of the Dragon V2 space capsule is now at the center of SpaceX’s attention. The competition is fierce : NASA has allocated a budget of several billion dollars for the development of the inhabited version of Dragon, but for Boeing and its CST-100, $ 4.2 billion has been released.
For now, SpaceX is certainly the best hope of the United States to quickly find the expertise of manned flights. The cargo version of Dragon has proved his reliability since 2012 and if we look at the SpaceX calendar, Dragon v2 is less than a year from the first shot. On its side, Boeing announces a launch of its CST-100 in August 2018, a few months after SpaceX. The race is launched between the two private companies.
SpaceX reuses its Dragon capsule
– News of June 6, 2017 –
SpaceX continues its pace of launches and advances in technology as well. Sunday’s shooting is no exception. Indeed, the US company has reused for this shot to the ISS a Dragon capsule, which has made its second flight. SpaceX is once again demonstrating its abilities in term of reuse. The Dragon capsule is an automatic cargo ship with a capacity of 6 tons to the International Space Station. Since the beggining of space shuttles, it is the only spaceship able to bring a large amount of cargo to Earth from the space station.
It also serves as the basis for the development of Dragon V2 which should be able to bring and bring back human crews. This new inhabited version is expected to make its first flight in December of this year. Sunday’s flight is the 11th meeting between a Dragon cargo ship and the International Space Station. It is the demonstration of a total control of the techniques of space rendezvous and atmospheric reentry.
For the moment, the landing of the Dragon capsule is done with a parachute, with retro-rockets to slow down while its atmospheric re-entry. Ultimately, this capsule could be able to land only with the help of its retrofuses.
Image by SpaceX