Late last week, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk unveiled his latest project, the Dragon V2. The Dragon V2 is a small, cone shaped spaceship that will ferry NASA astronauts and equipment back and forth from the international space station. It is expected to be in use by the end of 2016.
The Dragon V2 is making news for being the first spaceship capable of multiple trips in and out of orbit. This is made possible through propulsion and other technology that allow a slow re-entry into earth’s orbit. According to Musk, it will have the precise landing capability of a helicopter.
Musk also notes, “As long as we continue to throw away rockets and spacecraft, we will never have true access to space. It will always be incredibly expensive… [The Dragon V2 is] how a 21st century spaceship should land.”
The new SpaceX spaceship is capable of holding up to 7 people and stands only 15 feet tall, extremely small when compared to rockets of the past. However, it still carries the wallop that is needed to fire up into space. This is made possible through a recently unveiled Superdraco engine that provides 16,000 pounds of thrust.
In a statement released by SpaceX, they say, “[The engine] will provide astronauts with the unprecedented ability to escape from danger at any point during the ascent trajectory, not just in the first few minutes.”
All of this is huge news for the United States. It was just in 2010 that the United States government pushed to make space travel part of the private sector.
President Obama said at the time, “We will reach space faster and more often under this plan. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send people to orbit Mars and bring them safely back to Earth.”
Not surprisingly, the first few years of this transition was rough, and space race rival Russia was quickly becoming the top dog, charging 72 million dollars per seat on the International Space Station.
Now, however, with Elon Musk leading the charge, the future has never been brighter. As we all know, the private sector has always been far more capable of innovation than the government. The Dragon V2 is just another example of this.
NASA official Phil McAlister says, “We’re making great strides toward returning human spaceflight launch capability to U.S. soil. This certification is important to ensuring our crew members have reliable transportation to and from the space station where they are conducting research essential to advancing human exploration farther into the solar system.”