SpaceX Dragon Capsule

DragonLab DataSheet (875 kb)

 

Dragon is a free-flying, reusable spacecraft being developed by SpaceX under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Initiated internally by SpaceX in 2005, the Dragon spacecraft is made up of a pressurized capsule and unpressurized trunk used for Earth to LEO transport of pressurized cargo, unpressurized cargo, and/or crew members.

The Dragon spacecraft is comprised of 3 main elements: the Nosecone, which protects the vessel and the docking adaptor during ascent; the Spacecraft, which houses the crew and/or pressurized cargo as well as the service section containing avionics, the RCS system, parachutes, and other support infrastructure; and the Trunk, which provides for the stowage of unpressurized cargo and will support Dragon’s solar arrays and thermal radiators.

In December 2008, NASA announced the selection of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires. The $1.6 billion contract represents a minimum of 12 flights, with an option to order additional missions for a cumulative total contract value of up to $3.1 billion.

Though designed to address cargo and crew requirements for the ISS, as a free-flying spacecraft Dragon also provides an excellent platform for in-space technology demonstrations and scientific instrument testing. SpaceX is currently manifesting fully commercial, non-ISS Dragon flights under the name “DragonLab”. DragonLab represents an emergent capability for in-space experimentation.

 


Dragon Spacecraft with Solar Panels deployed

 

http://www.spacex.com/assets/swf/bag.swf

  • Fully autonomous rendezvous and docking with manual override capability in crewed configuration
  • 6,000 kg (13,228 lbs) payload up-mass to LEO; 3,000 kg (6,614 lbs) payload down-mass
  • Payload Volume: 10 m3 (350 ft3) pressurized, 14 m3  (490 ft3) unpressurized
  • 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
  • 1290 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 spacecraft 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.

 

In fulfillment of the COTS phase I contract, Dragon will perform three cargo demonstration missions:

 

Demo Target Date Duration Objectives
1 2010 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 spacecraft
2 2011 5 days ISS Fly-by. Dragon will approach to within 10 km of ISS and exercise the radio cross-link, demonstrating the ability of ISS crew to receive telemetry from Dragon and their ability to send a command to the spacecraft. After this primary objective is completed, Dragon will leave the vicinity of ISS and perform a comprehensive set of in-space check-outs before returning to earth.
3 2011 3 days Full cargo mission profile including mate to ISS

 

This simulation, developed by Odyssey Space Research, shows Dragon approaching and berthing with the ISS.

 
Dragon Spacecraft, Engineering Model (left) and Qualification Unit (right) at SpaceX’s Hawthorne facility

Dragon Spacecraft in Cargo Configuration

Dragon Spacecraft in Crew Configuration

Falcon 9 launching the Dragon Spacecraft

Dragon and Falcon 9 Second Stage, post Second Stage Separation Event. Courtesy NASA

Dragon approaching International Space Station. Courtesy NASA

Dragon berthed at International Space Station. Courtesy NASA

Water landing of Dragon Spacecraft. Courtesy NASA

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