A Look At SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule

SpaceX, a company that has become a household name as of late, founded by Elon Musk, continues to amaze the general public with their innovations. One of their more talked about projects is the Dragon capsule. According to SpaceX, “[it] is a free-flying spacecraft designed to deliver both cargo and people to orbiting destinations.”


via SpaceX / A look at DragonLab, another SpaceX innovation.

A Brief History of Dragon

Dragon’s development started a little over a decade ago, in 2004. In 2006, SpaceX sent a proposal to NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration program for all or part of the $500 million NASA planned to spend through 2010. By 2011, according to a statement by William H. Gerstenmaier, the Associate Administrator for Space Operations, “SpaceX completed 25 of 40 negotiated milestones for COTS work, thus receiving $298 million out of a potential $396 million, including augmented funding.” One of the completed milestones included Dragon’s first launch, and ultimately, its return back to Earth. In December 2010, the Dragon capsule returned to Earth via a water landing in the Pacific. This was historic as it was a breakthrough for privatizing the space industry, an initiative launched by President Obama.

The Future of Dragon

Since its inception, Dragon was intended to carry humans to space, however, currently, it has only carried cargo to space. Under a new agreement with NASA, it appears Dragon will fulfill its original purpose; according to the SpaceX website, they are “finalizing the necessary refinements to make [Dragon’s intended use] a reality.” Presently, SpaceX has stated that Dragon’s first manned test flight will occur in two to three years.

via SpaceX’s YouTube channel

Dragon’s Specifications

Height 6.1 metres (20 ft)
Diameter 3.7 metres (12 ft)
Sidewall angle 15 degrees
Volume 10 m3 (350 cu ft) pressurized
14 m3 (490 cu ft) unpressurized
34 m3 (1,200 cu ft) unpressurized with extended trunk
Dry mass 4,200 kg (9,300 lb)
Payload to ISS 3,310 kg (7,300 lb), which can be all pressurized, all unpressurized or anywhere between. It can return to Earth 3,310 kg (7,300 lb), which can be all unpressurized disposal mass or up to 2,500 kg (5,500 lb) of return pressurized cargo.
Propellant NTO / MMH
Endurance 1 week to 2 years



Information gathered from the following sources:










Hurricane Matthew’s Effect on the Space Coast

On October 7th, 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit Florida.  Originally a Category 4 storm, it was downgraded to a Category 3 by the time it approached Florida.  The potential for damage remained high, and many counties along the Atlantic were evacuated, including Brevard County, home of Cape Canaveral.  The Cape makes up what is known as the Space Coast; it was given this title as it is home to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), and various aerospace manufacturers.

The hurricane passed a mere 26 miles from the KSC, bringing consistent winds at 90 miles per hour, with gusts reaching 107 miles per hour.  The KSC’s vertical assembly building and several launchpads have the capability to withstand wind gusts of up to 125 miles per hour.  Certain buildings and launch pads, built after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, are able to withstand gusts of up to 135 miles per hour.

According to officials, the KSC felt minimal damage ranging from slight roof damage to flying debris.  Fortunately, two satellites set to launch soon were protected from the storm; coincidentally, one was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) GOES-R weather satellite intended to greatly improve hurricane forecasting.  However, following SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket explosion that badly damaged the launch pad, it is unknown the extent of further damage caused by Hurricane Matthew.  Until thorough inspections this weekend, it is unclear what effect the storm had on Cape Canaveral’s launch schedule.






Hurricane Matthew passes by Cape Canaveral coastline

A Basic Overview of NASA’s Space Launch System

A brief overview of NASA’s Space Launch System.

For the first time in nearly forty years, NASA completed their first critical design review for a human-rated launch vehicle.  This was for their Space Launch System (SLS), a new powerful, and highly advanced launch vehicle.  The purpose of SLS is to stay relevant with the new era of human space exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.  SLS will launch crews of up to four astronauts in the Orion spacecraft on missions focused on exploring multiple, deep-space destinations.  Due to its greater payload mass capability, volume capability, and energy to speed missions through space compared to other current launch vehicles, SLS will have the capabilities to be flexible and evolvable, thus offering new opportunities for payloads, including robotic scientific missions to places such as Mars, Jupiter, and/or Saturn.

Screen Shot 2016-09-22 at 11.12.45 PM.png

courtesy of nasa.gov

According to NASA, the initial block configuration of SLS, as shown above, will stand 322 feet tall, higher than the Statue of Liberty, and weigh 5.75 million pounds when fueled.  It will produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, the equivalent of more than 160,000 Corvette engines.  In comparison to Saturn V, the last exploration-class launch vehicle first utilized in 1966, SLS will provide 15 percent more thrust at launch, and will carry more than three times the mass of the space shuttle.

Engineers are aiming to deliver the first SLS rocket in 2018 to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For further information regarding SLS, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/sls/


Above information and graphics were found on NASA’s SLS Fact Sheet from 2015: http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/sls_october_2015_fact_sheet.pdf