Dragon 2 is a class of reusable spacecraft currently in development by American aerospace manufacturer SpaceX, designed as the successor to the Dragon cargo spacecraft. The spacecraft are designed for launches atop a Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket and a splashdown return. In comparison to its predecessor, it has larger windows, new flight computers and avionics, redesigned solar arrays, and a modified outer mold line. The spacecraft will be produced in two variants, Crew Dragon 2, a human-rated capsule capable of carrying up to seven astronauts, and Cargo Dragon 2, an updated replacement for the original Dragon. Crew Dragon 2 will be uniquely equipped with a set of four side-mounted thruster pods with two SuperDraco engines each, which can serve as a launch escape system. While both variants will be commissioned for logistical operations of the International Space Station (ISS) under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) and Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) programs, the crewed variant was originally planned for use beyond Low Earth orbit, with a tourist flight to the Moon originally planning to utilize Crew Dragon 2.
Development on Crew Dragon 2 began as DragonRider in 2010, when NASA began searching for private operators for crewed flights to the ISS under the CCDev program. Its design was publicly unveiled in May 2014, and in October 2014 was selected alongside Boeing's CST-100 Starliner for flight under the program. Considered by NASA as the cheapest option, US$2.6 billion was awarded to SpaceX to continue development on the spacecraft, in contrast to the US$4.2 billion awarded to Boeing. As of October 2018, Crew Dragon 2's first non-piloted test flight to the ISS is planned to occur in January 2019, while its first crewed flight to the ISS is planned to occur in June 2019. Cargo Dragon 2 was selected in January 2016 alongside Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems' Cygnus and Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser for flight in the CRS2 program. SpaceX's first CRS2 mission with the Cargo Dragon 2 is scheduled to occur after SpaceX's final CRS mission with the original Dragon spacecraft in January 2020.
|SpaceX Dragon 2|
Artistic rendition of a Crew Dragon 2 approaching the International Space Station (ISS)
|Country of origin||United States|
|Applications||ISS crew transfer |
Space tourism cargo
|Spacecraft type||2 variants: Crew Dragon 2 and Cargo Dragon 2|
|Dry mass||about 6,350 kg (14,000 lb)|
|Payload capacity||Dragon Cargo 2: 3,307 kg (7,291 lb) to ISS |
2,507 kg (5,527 lb) return cargo, 800 kg (1,800 lb) disposed cargo.
|Crew capacity||Crew Dragon: 7|
Cargo Dragon: robotic
|Volume||10 m3 (350 cu ft) pressurized |
14 m3 (490 cu ft) unpressurized
|Built||2 (1 test article, 1 production)|
|First launch||January 2019 (uncrewed), |
June 2019 (crewed)
Dragon 2 has two variants: Crew Dragon and Cargo Dragon.
Crew Dragon was initially called DragonRider and it was intended from the beginning to support a crew of seven or a combination of crew and cargo. It was planned to be able to perform fully autonomous rendezvous and docking with manual override ability; and was designed to use the NASA Docking System (NDS) to dock to the ISS. For typical missions, DragonRider would remain docked to the ISS for a period of 180 days, but would be designed to be able to do so for 210 days, the same as the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. From the earliest design concepts which were publicly released in 2010, SpaceX planned to use an integrated pusher launch escape system for the Dragon spacecraft, claiming several advantages over the tractor detachable tower approach used on most prior crewed spacecraft. These advantages included the provision for crew escape all the way to orbit, reusability of the escape system, improved crew safety due to eliminating a stage separation, and the ability to use the escape engines during landings for a precise solid earth landing of the capsule.
SpaceX originally intended to certify their propulsive landing scheme, in parallel with the parachute-to-water-landing method for Dragon 2, with the goal to hold to the development schedule and "ensure U.S. crew transportation safely and reliably in 2017." SpaceX announced that "land landing will become the baseline for the early post-certification missions" while precision water landing under parachutes was proposed to NASA as "the baseline return and recovery approach for the first few flights of Crew Dragon." Thus the parachute system was initially anticipated to be only a backup system; due to the cancellation of propulsive landing, however, the parachute system will be used for all landings.
As of 2011, the Paragon Space Development Corporation was assisting in developing DragonRider's life support system. In 2012, SpaceX was in talks with Orbital Outfitters about developing space suits to wear during launch and re-entry.
At a NASA news conference on May 18, 2012, SpaceX confirmed again that their target launch price for crewed Dragon flights is $160 million, or $20 million per seat if the maximum crew of 7 is aboard, and if NASA orders at least four DragonRider flights per year. This contrasts with the 2014 Soyuz launch price of $76,000,000 per seat for NASA astronauts.
The spacecraft's design was unveiled on May 29, 2014, during a press event at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. In October 2014, NASA selected the Dragon spacecraft as one of the candidates to fly American astronauts to the International Space Station under the Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX plans to use the Falcon 9 Block 5 launch vehicle for launching Dragon 2.
The landing system was initially designed to accommodate three types of landing scenarios:
However, on July 19, 2017, Elon Musk announced that propulsive landing development had been halted and all landings would be under parachute. The SuperDraco engines would still exist for aborts, but there would be no legs. The effort to qualify propulsive landing for safety as well as the lack of technology commonalities with their ultimate Interplanetary Spaceship was given as a reason.
Dragon has been designed to fulfill a set of mission requirements that will make the capsule useful to both commercial and government customers. SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace are working together to support round-trip transport of commercial passengers to low Earth orbit (LEO) destinations such as the planned Bigelow Commercial Space Station. In that use, the full passenger capacity of seven passengers is planned to be used.
In an August 2014 presentation, SpaceX revealed that if NASA chooses to use the Dragon 2 space capsule under a Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap, Commercial Crew Development) contract, then only four of the seven possible seats would be used for carrying NASA-designated passengers to the ISS, as NASA would like to use the added payload mass and volume ability to carry pressurized cargo. Also, all NASA landings of Dragon 2 are planned to initially use the propulsive deceleration ability of the Super Draco engines only for a propulsive assist right before final touchdown, and would otherwise use parachutes "all the way down."
On 16 September 2014, NASA announced that SpaceX, together with Boeing, has been selected to provide crew transport ability to ISS. SpaceX will receive $2.6 billion under this contract. NASA considers Dragon to be the least expensive proposal. Comparing the Dragon to the Boeing CST-100, NASA's William H. Gerstenmaier considers the CST-100 proposal the stronger of the two.
In a departure from prior NASA practice during the first five decades of the space age, where NASA contracted with commercial firms to build spaceflight equipment and then NASA operated the spacecraft directly, NASA is purchasing space transport services from SpaceX with the Dragon 2 contract, and will leave the launch, transit, and operation of the spacecraft to SpaceX.
According to Elon Musk in a question and answer session on 29 May 2014 unveiling of the Dragon 2, the older version of Dragon will be used in tandem with Dragon 2 as a cargo ferry for coming years.
Following the Dragon 2 pad abort test in early May 2015, Musk revealed plans to use a variant of the Dragon 2 spacecraft—in conjunction with the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle—to transport science cargos across much of the Solar System, in cislunar and inner solar system regions such as Mars with the Red Dragon but also to outer Solar System destinations such as Jupiter's moon Europa. Details include that SpaceX expects to be able to transport 2,000–4,000 kg (4,400–8,800 lb) to the surface of Mars, including a soft retropropulsive landing using SuperDraco thrusters following a limited atmospheric deceleration. For destinations with no atmosphere, the Dragon variant would omit the parachute and heat shield, and add propellant. However, these plans were indefinitely postponed following the cancellation of propulsive landing development for the Dragon vehicle in mid-2017.
SpaceX has contracted to fly a number of crewed flights to low-Earth orbit (LEO) for the US space agency NASA. These flights are slated to begin no earlier than April 2019, with an automated test mission to the International Space Station (ISS) scheduled for January 2019.
In August 2018, NASA and SpaceX agreed on the loading procedures for propellants, vehicle fluids and crew. High-pressure helium will be loaded first, followed by the passengers approximately two hours prior to scheduled launch; the ground crew will then depart the launch pad and remove to a safe distance. The launch escape system will be activated approximately 40 minutes prior to launch, with propellant loading commencing several minutes later.
On February 27, 2017, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that the company will attempt to fly two private citizens on a free return trajectory around the moon in late 2018. The Dragon 2 spacecraft would launch on the Falcon Heavy booster. The two private citizens, who have not yet been named, approached SpaceX about taking a trip around the Moon, and have "already paid a significant deposit" for the cost of the mission, according to a statement from the company. The names of the two individuals will be announced later, pending the result of initial health tests to ensure their fitness for the mission, the statement said. The two passengers would be the only people on board what SpaceX expects to be about a week-long trip around the Moon, according to Musk, who spoke with reporters during a phone conference. "This would be a long loop around the moon. . . . It would skim the surface of the moon, go quite a bit further out into deep space and then loop back to Earth," Musk said during the teleconference. "So I'm guessing, distance-wise, maybe [about 500,000 to 650,000 kilometers]. The Dragon spacecraft would operate, in large part, autonomously, but the passengers would have to train for emergency procedures. The Dragon 2 capsule will require some upgrades for the deep-space flight, but Musk said those would be limited mainly to installing a long-range communications system.
On 5 February 2018 Elon Musk announced the Falcon Heavy rocket would not be used for crewed missions. Elon Musk indicated on 6 February 2018 that the BFR will likely be used for the flight instead, indicating that SpaceX is moving forward with space tourism plans.
SpaceX planned a series of four flight tests for the Dragon 2 that included both a "pad abort" test, an in-flight abort test, plus both an uncrewed robotic orbital flight to the ISS, and finally a 14-day crewed demonstration mission to the ISS, currently planned for 2019. In August 2014, it was announced that the pad abort test would occur in Florida, at SpaceX's leased pad at SLC-40, and the test was conducted successfully on 6 May 2015. Dragon landed safely in the ocean to the east of the launchpad 99 seconds later. While a flight-like Dragon 2 and trunk were used for the pad abort test, they rested atop a truss structure for the test rather than a full Falcon 9 rocket. A crash test dummy embedded with a suite of sensors was placed inside the test vehicle to record acceleration loads and forces at the crew seat, while the remaining six seats were loaded with weights to simulate full-passenger-load weight. The test objective was to demonstrate sufficient total impulse, thrust and controllability to conduct a safe pad abort. A fuel mixture ratio issue was detected after the flight in one of the eight SuperDraco engines, but did not materially affect the flight. On 24 November 2015, SpaceX conducted a test of Dragon 2's hovering abilities at the firm’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. In a video published by the firm, the spacecraft is shown suspended by a hoisting cable and igniting its SuperDraco engines. The capsule hovers in equilibrium for about 5 seconds, kept in balance by its 8 engines firing at reduced thrust to compensate exactly for gravity. The video shows the second test of the two-part milestone under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development contract with SpaceX. The first test, a short firing of the engines intended to verify a healthy propulsion system, was completed two days earlier on 22 November. The test vehicle was the same capsule that performed the pad abort test earlier in 2015; it was nicknamed DragonFly.
SpaceX plans to conduct an in-flight abort test from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A in Florida after the first uncrewed orbital test flight and prior to the first crewed test flight. The test is planned to be conducted approximately in May 2019 with the refurbished capsule from the uncrewed test flight. Earlier, this test had been scheduled before the uncrewed orbital test, however, SpaceX and NASA consider it safer to use the more recently designed capsule rather than the older test article from the pad abort test. The Dragon 2 test capsule will be launched in a sub-orbital flight to conduct a separation and abort scenario in the troposphere at transonic velocities, at max. Q, where the vehicle experiences maximum aerodynamic pressure. The test objective is to demonstrate the ability to safely move away from the ascending rocket under the most challenging atmospheric conditions of the flight trajectory, imposing the worst structural stress of a real flight on the rocket and spacecraft. The capsule will then splash down in the ocean with traditional parachutes, possibly with assistance of its integrated thrusters to smooth the final moments of the descent. The in-flight abort capsule was originally planned to launch on F9R Dev2 before the Falcon 9 Full Thrust vehicle (and its densified propellants) made F9R Dev2 incompatible with both of SpaceX's active orbital launch pads. Then a special version of the Falcon 9 first stage with just three engines was prepared for this test and carried to the launch pad at Vandenberg in April 2015 to conduct a tanking test. It was erected on the revised and rebuilt transporter erector (TE) and fully loaded with propellants on 9 April 2015 to test both the vehicle and ground support equipment. Those plans were later scrapped, and the abort test will be performed using an entire Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket and will be used as a test of the fueling procedure in order to human-rate the Falcon 9 rocket for NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
The first orbital test of Crew Dragon 2 will be an uncrewed mission, designated SpX-DM1 and scheduled, as of October 2018, for January 2019. The spacecraft will test the approach and automated docking procedures with the ISS, remain docked for a few weeks, then conduct the full re-entry, splashdown and recovery steps to qualify for a crewed mission. Life support systems will be monitored all along the test flight. The same capsule will be re-used later for an in-flight abort test. As of October 2018, Dragon 2 is scheduled to carry its first crew of two NASA astronauts on a 14-day test flight mission to the ISS in June 2019. They could well be the first people to ride a post-Shuttle American spacecraft into orbit, since the orbital test flight of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner is currently scheduled for the August of 2019. In 2015, NASA named its first Commercial Crew astronaut cadre of four veteran astronauts to work with SpaceX and Boeing – Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Sunita Williams, and Douglas Hurley. The SpX-DM2 mission will complete the last milestone of the Commercial Crew Development program, paving the way to starting commercial services under an upcoming ISS Crew Transportation Services contract. On August 3, 2018 NASA announced the crew for the DM-2 mission. The crew of two will be formed by NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, Victor Glover and Doug Hurley. Behnken previously flew as mission specialist on the STS-123 and the STS-130 missions. Hurley previously flew as a pilot on the STS-127 mission and on the final Space Shuttle mission, the STS-135 mission.
we call it v2 for Dragon. That is the primary vehicle for crew, and we will retrofit it back to cargo.
DragonRider, SpaceX's crew-capable variant of its Dragon capsule
iLIDS was later renamed the NASA Docking System (NDS), and will be NASA’s implementation of an IDSS compatible docking system for all future US vehicles
a highly-modified second-generation Dragon capsule fitted with myriad upgrades and changes – including new rocket thrusters, computers, a different outer mold line, and redesigned solar arrays – from the company's Dragon cargo delivery vehicle already flying to the space station.
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If all goes according to plan, on launch day, the Falcon 9 composite overwrap pressure vessels, known as COPVs, will be loaded with helium and verified to be in a stable configuration prior to astronaut arrival at the launch pad. The astronauts then will board the spacecraft about two hours before launch, when the launch system is in a quiescent state. After the ground crews depart the launch pad, the launch escape systems will be activated approximately 38 minutes before liftoff, just before fueling begins. SpaceX launch controllers then will begin loading rocket grade kerosene and densified liquid oxygen approximately 35 minutes before launch. The countdown and launch preparations can be stopped automatically up to the last moment before launch. In the unlikely event of an emergency at any point up to and after launch, the launch escape systems will allow the astronauts to evacuate safely.
Currently, the first uncrewed test of the spacecraft is expected to launch in May 2017. Sometime after that, SpaceX plans to conduct and in-flight abort to test the SuperDraco thrusters while the rocket is traveling through the area of maximum dynamic pressure – Max Q.
In the updated plan, SpaceX would launch its uncrewed flight test (DM-1), refurbish the flight test vehicle, then conduct the in-flight abort test prior to the crew flight test. Using the same vehicle for the in-flight abort test will improve the realism of the ascent abort test and reduce risk.
Shotwell said the company is planning an in-flight abort test of the Crew Dragon spacecraft before the end of this year, where the vehicle uses its thrusters to separate from a Falcon 9 rocket during ascent. That will be followed in 2017 by two demonstration flights to the International Space Station, the first without a crew and the second with astronauts on board, and then the first operational mission.