Minimize Dragon V2 / Crew Dragon

Dragon V2 / Crew Dragon

Development Status    Crew Dragon Parameters    Launch   References

On May 29, 2014, SpaceX unveiled its Dragon V2 spacecraft, the next generation spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to Earth orbit and beyond. Dragon was designed from the beginning to carry humans, and the upgraded vehicle revealed today will be one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown. 1) 2)

Dragon V2 (version 2) is the evolution of SpaceX's successful Dragon capsule, which has now made four deliveries to the ISS (International Space Station). CEO Elon Musk called the original Dragon a great "proof of concept", but proclaimed Dragon V2 a spaceship for the 21st century. No longer will it parachute down into the ocean; instead, it will use rockets to land with the precision of a helicopter anywhere on Earth. With engines 160 times more powerful than the original, Dragon V2 will be multiply redundant for enhanced crew safety. Beyond that, advances in heat shield and engine design will allow the new ship to be quickly reusable. The company claims this could dramatically lower the cost putting people in space.

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Figure 1: Photo of the Dragon V2 astronaut transporter model (image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX hopes to begin testing crewed flights in late 2015 or early 2016, but it's unknown when Dragon V2 might begin to make unmanned test flights. But, SpaceX's vision is clear: when Dragon V2 is combined with a reusable Falcon 9 rocket, the company can offer a completely-reusable space system to ferry cargo and crew into Earth orbit. If successful, this could dramatically lower the cost of putting people and supplies into space. 3)

The top of the V2 is equipped to open up and expose a docking probe so it's able to dock autonomously at the ISS – and at the same port as NASA's now retired space shuttle orbiters. 4)

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Figure 2: Animation of the SpaceX Dragon V2 docking with the ISS (image credit: SpaceX)

Ever since the US space shuttle program ended in 2011, the world's astronauts have depended on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to reach the ISS, an orbiting outpost built and maintained by more than a dozen countries.

SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin have all received funding from NASA in a PPP (Public Private Partnership) agreement to help them develop next-generation spacecraft that will someday carry astronauts to space. SpaceX has said its crew capsule may be able to reach the ISS with astronauts aboard by 2017.

 


 

Development status

• January 25, 2019: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket (Dragon 2) sporting human-rating upgrades such as new composite pressurant tanks briefly ignited its nine Merlin engines Thursday afternoon on a launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and SpaceX later declared the pre-launch milestone complete in preparation for a critical test flight with a commercial crew capsule as soon as late February. 5)

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Figure 3: A plume of rocket exhaust emerges from the flame trench at launch pad 39A during Thursday's Falcon 9 hold-down test-firing (image credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now)

- Crowned with SpaceX's first space-worthy Crew Dragon spacecraft, the Falcon 9 rocket counted down to ignition of its nine Merlin 1D first stage engines at 4 p.m. EST (21:00 GMT) Thursday (24 January) atop launch pad 39A, the same launch complex used by NASA's Saturn 5 moon rockets and space shuttles.

- After the launch pad's crew access arm retracted and the Falcon 9 was filled with kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants, a cloud of rocket exhaust emerged from the flame trench north of the launch pad as the Merlin engines fired at T-minus 3 seconds in the mock countdown and throttled up for a burn that was expected to last around seven seconds.

- Hold-down clamps kept the 1.2-million-pound (540,000 kg) rocket on the ground at pad 39A for the static fire test, a customary milestone in all SpaceX launch campaigns.

- Multiple sources said the test-firing cut off before reaching the full planned duration Thursday, but SpaceX declared the test a success, clearing the way for the rocket to be lowered horizontal and rolled back to a nearby hangar for final checkouts and preparations ahead of liftoff next month.

- Thursday's test-firing occurred one year — to the day — after SpaceX conducted the static fire test ahead of the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which took off 6 February 2018.

- NASA and SpaceX managers are targeting launch of the Crew Dragon's first test flight — without astronauts on-board — no earlier than 23 February. The instrumented, privately-developed capsule will launch toward the International Space Station, arriving there a day or two after liftoff, then return to a splashdown at sea in early March.

- The Crew Dragon is one of two commercial spacecraft NASA aims to use to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station, ending the space agency's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for crew transportation to the orbiting research laboratory. NASA signed a $2.6 billion contract with SpaceX in 2014 to design, develop and fly the Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the agreement covers the two test flights — Demo-1 without astronauts and Demo-2 with astronauts on-board — and six operational crew rotation flights to the station once NASA reviews the results of the demonstration missions.

- NASA has a similar $4.2 billion contract with Boeing for development of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which will launch on United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rockets, also from Cape Canaveral.

- The Crew Dragon's Demo-1 mission will launch aboard the Falcon 9 rocket into low Earth orbit, and rendezvous with the space station around 400 km above Earth, moving in for an automated docking, a first-time achievement for SpaceX.

- The company's current Dragon cargo capsules are grappled by the station's robotic arm. The Crew Dragon — also called Dragon 2 — represents a brand new spacecraft design, with new life support systems, crew accommodations, and propulsion, electrical and thermal control systems not used on the previous Dragon vehicles.

- For example, the Crew Dragon features powerful hydrazine-fueled SuperDraco thruster pods that could be used to drive the capsule away from a failing launch vehicle. The spacecraft's rear trunk section also has solar panels mounted on the body of the vehicle — they were fixed to deployable wings on the first-generation Dragon spacecraft — and a thermal radiator to keep the craft's temperature within limits. Crew-carrying Dragons will also have seats and an astronaut control panel.

- SpaceX has also introduced upgrades to the Falcon 9 rocket to get ready for crew flights, including new composite high-pressure helium tanks to replace reservoirs whose design engineers concluded contributed to the explosion of a Falcon 9 on its launch pad in 2016 during fueling.

- NASA requires SpaceX to launch seven Falcon 9 rockets using the new composite overwrapped pressure vessels before putting astronauts on the rocket. The new helium tanks began flying on the second stage in November, and on the first stage last month.

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Figure 4: The Crew Dragon spacecraft inside SpaceX's hangar at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida (image credit: SpaceX)

- Assuming the Demo-1 launch goes according to plan, and an in-flight abort test of the Crew Dragon spacecraft goes off without a hitch in the next few months, SpaceX could be ready to launch a two-man crew to the station as soon as mid-June on the Demo-2 flight, followed by regular crew ferry flights to the orbiting complex by the end of the year.

- The launch of Boeing's first CST-100 test flight to low Earth orbit is expected later this year. It was most recently officially targeted for March, but that schedule is now out-of-date, and NASA has not provided a revised timeframe for the mission.

- The partial shutdown of the federal government is not having major impacts on the Crew Dragon preparations. SpaceX personnel can continue working on the company's payroll, and NASA employees necessary for support duties and readiness reviews leading up to the Demo-1 launch have been granted exceptions to continue working — without a paycheck — because their work has been deemed essential to maintain the space station.

• On January 3, 2019, the complete vehicle – including Crew Dragon – was rolled out from the HIF onto Pad 39A. The vehicle then underwent fit checks – including rotating the new Crew Access Arm over to Crew Dragon, ensuring a good fit. 6) 7)

- The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon capsule which will execute the Demonstration Mission-1 (DM-1) test flight have rolled out to Pad 39A for fit checks ahead of launch. The rollout is a strong indicator that SpaceX is nearly ready to perform the much anticipated DM-1 mission – an uncrewed certification flight for NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

- The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon capsule which will execute the Demonstration Mission-1 (DM-1) test flight have rolled out to Pad 39A for fit checks ahead of launch. The rollout is a strong indicator that SpaceX is nearly ready to perform the much anticipated DM-1 mission – an uncrewed certification flight for NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

- Preparations for the rollout began during the first half of December, with the Crew Dragon capsule being moved to the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) at Pad 39A for integration with the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

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Figure 5: A crew access arm reaches toward SpaceX's first Crew Dragon spacecraft atop its Falcon 9 rocket on Launch Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Jan. 3, 2019 ahead of an uncrewed test flight (image credit: SpaceX)

• May 6, 2015: Soaring on the power of an octet of SuperDrago engines, SpaceX successfully completed a critical rapid fire life-saving test of their Dragon crew capsules pad abort emergency escape system that would ignite in a split second to save the astronauts lives in the unlikely event of a failure of the Falcon 9 booster rocket at the Cape Canaveral launch pad. 8)

- The uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon roared swiftly skywards upon ignition of the test vehicle's integrated SuperDraco engines at 9 a.m EDT this morning, Wednesday, May 6, for the mile high test conducted from the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch pad from a specially built platform at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

- A human-sized crash test dummy was seated inside for the test exercise which ended safely with a parachute assisted Atlantic Ocean splashdown after less than two minutes. There were no astronauts aboard.

- The SuperDraco engines fired for approximately six seconds and accelerated the crew Dragon "from 0 to 100 mph in 1.2 seconds. It reached a top speed of about 345 mph," said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in a post test briefing.

- "This bodes quite well for the future of the program. I don't want to jinx it, but this is really quite a good indication for the future of Dragon." said Elon Musk. "We hope to launch the first crews to the ISS within about two years, plus or minus six months."

- The side mounted escape engines mark a revolutionary change from the traditional top mounted launch escape system used previously in the Mercury, Apollo, Soyuz and Orion human spaceflight capsules. The space shuttle had no escape system beyond ejections seats used on the first four flights.

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Figure 6: Photo of the SpaceX Pad Abort Test with the Crew Dragon shortly after launch (image credit: NASA, Universe Today)

- Dragon was mounted atop the finned trunk section for the test. The entire Dragon/trunk assembly was about 5 meters tall.

- The test is a critical milestone towards the timely development of the human rated Dragon that NASA is counting on to restore the US capability to launch astronauts from US soil abroad US rockets to the International Space Station (ISS) as early as 2017.

- "This is a critical step toward ensuring crew safety for government and commercial endeavors in low-Earth orbit," said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. "Congratulations to SpaceX on what appears to have been a successful test on the company's road toward achieving NASA certification of the Crew Dragon spacecraft for missions to and from the International Space Station."

Figure 7: Powered by its SuperDraco engines, the uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon flies through its paces in the Pad Abort Test from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida (video credit: NASA)

- After all the monomethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide hypergolic propellants were consumed, Dragon soared as planned to an altitude of about 1500 meters above the launch pad. At about T+21 seconds the trunk was jettisoned and the spacecraft began a slow rotation with its heat shield pointed toward the ground again as it arced out eastwards over the ocean.

- The drogue chutes and trio of red and white main parachutes deployed as planned for a picturesque Dragon splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean about a mile offshore of its Cape Canaveral launch pad. The capsule was retrieved from the ocean by waiting recovery boats.

- Today's pad abort demonstration tested the ability of the set of eight SuperDraco engines integrated directly into the side walls of the crew Dragon to ignite simultaneously and pull the vehicle away from the launch pad in a split second – in a simulated emergency to save the astronauts lives in the event of a real emergency.

- Therefore the Pad Abort Test did not include an actual Falcon 9 booster since it was focused on a checkout of the capsule's escape capability.

- The crew Dragon is outfitted with 270 sensors to measure a wide range of vehicle, engine, acceleration and abort test parameters.

- The pad abort test was accomplished under SpaceX's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with NASA, that will eventually lead to certification of the Dragon for crewed missions to low Earth orbit and the ISS.

 


 

Crew Dragon Parameters

Dragon is a free-flying spacecraft designed to deliver both cargo and people to orbiting destinations. Dragon made history in 2012 when it became the first commercial spacecraft in history to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and safely return cargo to Earth, a feat previously achieved only by governments. It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth. Currently Dragon carries cargo to space, but it was designed from the beginning to carry humans. As part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX is now developing the refinements that will enable Dragon to fly crew. The first demonstration flight for this program is targeted for February 2019. 9)

Figure 8: First Private Spacecraft to the Space Station (image credit: SpaceX)

• Total launch payload mass: 6,000 kg

• Total launch payload volume: 25 m3

Pressurized Section: The pressurized section of the spacecraft, also referred to as the capsule, is designed to carry both cargo and humans into space. Towards the base of the capsule but outside the pressurized structure are the Draco thrusters, Dragon's GNC (Guidance Navigation and Control) bay and Dragon's advanced heat shield.

• Spacecraft payload volume: 11 m3.

Trunk: Dragon's trunk supports the spacecraft during ascent to space, carries unpressurized cargo and houses Dragon's solar arrays. The trunk and solar arrays remain attached to Dragon until shortly before reentry to Earth's atmosphere, when they are jettisoned.

•Trunk Payload Volume: 14 m3.

Total Return Payload Mass: 3,000 kg; Total return payload volume: 11m3.

Technical Overview: Height with trunk: 7.2 m; Diameter: 3.7 m; Sidewall angle: 15º; Orbit duration: up to 2 years.

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Figure 9: Crew Dragon vehicle with Shield, Pressurized Section, and Trunk (image credit: SpaceX)

 

Launch: A launch of SpaceX's Crew Dragon's first test flight (Demo-1) to the ISS — without astronauts on-board —is planned no earlier than 23 February 2019 from the LC-39A at KSC on a Falcon-9 Block 5 vehicle.

Orbit: Near circular orbit, altitude of ~400 km, inclination = 51.6º.

 


1) "Dragon V2: SpaceX's Next Generation Manned Spacecraft," SpaceX, May 30, 2014, URL: http://www.spacex.com/news/2014/05/30/dragon-v2-
spacexs-next-generation-manned-spacecraft

2) Ken Kremer, "Elon Musk Premiers SpaceX Manned Dragon V2 Astronaut Transporter – 1st Photos," Universe Today, May 29, 2014, URL: http://www.universetoday.com/112213/elon-musk-premiers-spacex
-manned-dragon-v2-astronaut-transporter-1st-photos/

3) "SpaceX unveils capsule to ferry astronauts to space," Space Travel, May 30, 2014, URL: http://www.space-travel.com/reports/SpaceX_unveils
_capsule_to_ferry_astronauts_to_space_999.html

4) Ken Kremer, "Meet SpaceX's New Manned Dragon: Cool Animation Shows ‘How It Works'," Universe Today, June 2, 2014, URL: http://www.universetoday.com/112272/meet-spacexs-new-manned
-dragon-cool-animation-shows-how-it-works/

5) Stephen Clark, "Falcon 9 rocket fires engines in key test ahead of Crew Dragon demo flight," 25 January 2019, URL: https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/01/25/falcon-9-rocket
-fires-engines-in-key-test-ahead-of-crew-dragon-demo-flight/

6) Michael Baylor, "Falcon 9 with Dragon 2 rolls out for DM-1 dry dress rehearsal at 39A," NASA Spaceflight.com, 3 January 2019, URL: https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2019/01/falcon-9
-dragon-2-rolls-out-dry-dress-rehearsal-39a/

7) Tariq Malik, "Behold! SpaceX's 1st Crew Dragon Spaceship Is On the Launchpad," Space.com, 6 January 2019, URL: https://www.space.com/42916-spacex-first-crew-
dragon-spaceship-launchpad.html

8) Ken Kremer, "SpaceX Completes Successful Crew Dragon Test of Astronaut Life Saving Escape System," Universe Today, 6 May 2015, URL: https://www.universetoday.com/120128/spacex-
completes-successful-crew-dragon-test-of-astronaut-life-saving-escape-system/

9) Dragon," SpaceX, URL: https://www.spacex.com/dragon
 


The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (herb.kramer@gmx.net).

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