Saturday, September 12, 2015

First Interior Photos of SpaceX's Crew Dragon Spacecraft Released

Crew Dragon's interior. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX has just released interior photos of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, as well as a video showing closeups of its control panels and crew seats. The images offer a very first glimpse at what the finished capsule will look like. The Crew Dragon spacecraft is designed to carry humans to the International Space Station and other destinations. In 2012, SpaceX's Dragon cargo craft made history when it became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to the space station, a feat previously achieved only by governments.

The photos show an interior that is sleek and smooth, with mostly black and white hardware. It gives off the vibe of a luxury sports car. The capsule has seven seats for crew, made of carbon fiber and Alcantara cloth. Video displays in front of the seats will provide information to the astronauts about the vehicle's position in space and the environment on board. There's even an environmental control system that astronauts can adjust in case the Crew Dragon's temperature is too hot or too cold. During their trip, astronauts on board can set the spacecraft’s interior temperature to between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Crew Dragon will be a fully autonomous spacecraft that can also be monitored and controlled by on board astronauts and SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, CA. It will use thrusters to land, instead of splashing down in the ocean.

The capsule measures about 20 feet tall by 12 feet in diameter, which is not a lot of space, considering it’s designed to carry up to 7 astronauts at a time. It’s considerably larger than the Russian Soyuz, which can carry up to three passengers. 

The capsule was unveiled a day after Musk appeared as a guest on the ‘Late Show with Stephen Colbert’. Musk made some bold statements about the future of space travel, including the possible idea of warming Mars for human habitation by dropping a nuclear bomb on the planet’s poles.

Crew Dragon's interior. Credit: SpaceX
Crew Dragon's interior. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX is developing the Crew Dragon for NASA as part of the Commercial Crew Program. The space agency awarded both SpaceX and Boeing contracts to manufacture and operate crew vehicles to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the ISS. The initiative is meant to stimulate the private sector, as well as decrease America's reliance on Russian rockets for getting into space.

SpaceX is hoping to send astronauts to the orbiting laboratory sometime in the 2017-2018 time frame.

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