This is a thread for the SpaceX unveiling of the new Dragon.
It will happen Thursday evening, more details (and streaming video) here:
I'm posting early so people can hear about it and plan to watch it, and also for people to make guesses about what they'll reveal.
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that they'll also be surprise-announcing their reusable upper stage, so in theory they can recover and reuse all three components of their crew launch system this year.
Dragon is an American reusable space capsule which currently is used to carry cargo to the ISS. It has always been intended to be developed into a crew vehicle.
The Dragon V2 is the crew-rated version. The main feature which needed to be added is the "launch abort system", or a powerful rocket which can be used to separate the capsule from the launch vehicle in case the launch vehicle starts to blow up or otherwise crash.
While Dragon V2 is capable of ocean splashdown (the recovery method used for the original Dragon), it is intended to land on solid ground, making it much safer and more pleasant for the passengers, and also more likely to return the capsule in good condition for reuse.
It's designed for three landing modes: parachute splashdown, parachute landing with rocket-assisted touchdown on land (which should be survivable if the rockets fail entirely, and a comfortable soft landing if the rocket works), and pure propulsive landing on land.
Many things are still unknown about the details of the V2. Elon Musk, the CEO and Chief Designer, has implied that there will be surprising changes to its appearance. It is being speculated that the V2 will be a trunk-integrated, trunkless, or trunk-optional design, for total reusability. The capsule would need extensive redesign if the trunk is integrated.
I intend to follow this on my usual channels.
I personally like the decision to use spaceX primarily for ISS missions so that Orion can focus on the deeper space exploration.
It's been a long time coming...
This is the design of the current Dragon.
The trunk, which does not return from orbit, is an important service module as well as providing additional cargo space. With its large solar array, it can provide power for very long stays in space. This will enable the "DragonLab" missions, in which the Dragon will be launched as a miniature self-contained space station for extended microgravity experiments of the type which would be performed on the ISS.
Making the Dragon V2 capable of launching and navigating to the ISS, or other space stations (such as proposed space hotels taking advantage of low priced launch services to provide adventurous millionaires with exotic vacations), without the trunk would enable a fully-reusable crew launch system, potentially reducing launch costs near the cost of the fuel, which is presently a small fraction of a percent of launching an expendable rocket.
Right now, the usual channels are showing a blackout of further information. The 10 meter diameter comes from previous statements from a person associated with spaceX whose name starts with a capital C
You're confusing it with the SpaceX MCT (Mars Colonial Transport) super heavy lifter concept. That is intended to be Saturn V-class with a 10 meter diameter, built and launched from the proposed Texas site.
The big changes to Dragon 2 are launch abort motors and cool-looking fins on the trunk, for abort stability. They'll probably also show off the interior with seven couches and lots of blue LED lighting, since Boeing also recently showed off their capsule's interior.
Also likely to be shown is the progress in reconstructing the CRS-3 landing video. Through a massive crowd-sourcing effort on nasaspaceflight.com, they've turned broken MPEG garbage into a clear view of the legs extending and the plume of fire as the rocket softly touches down on the ocean's surface. Quite remarkable, even had the creator of ffmpeg adding debugging options to help with the effort!
The main reason you should be interested is that this is the first manned orbital launch system actually being built since the space shuttle, which is intended to be reusable.
And this one is intended to be *rapidly* and *completely* reusable: refuel, restack, and it's ready for another flight. They're talking about flying the same vehicle twice in one day. The stages will land softly on landing pads, under power, not get dropped in the ocean or glide back in battered condition, so they can be immediately available for reuse.
The fuel cost of a launch is under $20 per kilogram of payload, and the manufacturing cost of the full vehicle is comparable to that of an airliner with similar capacity. Even with the extra mass of life support and safety systems, the fuel cost of launching a human, and returning him to Earth safely, will be under $30,000. The Falcon 9 carrier for the Dragon uses special top-grade kerosene fuel, but they are developing a natural gas fueled vehicle which would have fuel costs an order of magnitude lower.
Another reason this matters is that America currently lacks a domestic crew launch vehicle, and is dependent on Russian launch services to keep the ISS manned. The Dragon V2 will carry astronauts and cosmonauts to the ISS.
The three competitors for the Commercial Crew contract; Boeing, Sierra Nevada, and SpaceX; are trying to sway public opinion to avoid being "downselected". It is increasingly clear that only two of the three will get the full contract, possibly only one. Boeing showed off their capsule interior a few weeks ago, and the Dream Chaser spaceplane publicizes their drop tests. SpaceX is just doing the same, happening to also be riding the anti-Russian sentiment due to Ukraine.
Tonight's event promises to be a flashy Silicon Valley dog-and-pony show, thanks to Elon. I think they're frontrunners for the contract, though Boeing has huge political support, and the Dream Chaser is a sexy spaceplane.
If there's a downselect, Boeing's CST-100 seems the most likely to be dropped, and Dragon seems the least.
But I don't believe the downselect will happen. There's already so much invested in developing all three options. If SpaceX crumbles for some reason, then you don't want only one other option under development, in case that also fails.
CST-100 is the most conservative approach, and the least likely to fail or be delayed. Dream Chaser offers the most comfortable ride and the greatest cross-range capability. Dragon is the budget option, with some advanced capabilities of its own.
There are good reasons to keep them all.
The reason this will be a big deal is because, in the future, humanity will look fondly back at this time as the first step in privatization of the space industry. 20 years ago if you asked someone if companies would be flying people everywhere they would say "ya, in the future. Like in the movies.". This is the start of everything.
>20 years ago if you asked someone if companies would be flying people everywhere they would say "ya, in the future. Like in the movies."
Pretty sure that in 1994 that was already a thing
I'd love to have all three, but budget pressure is immense. The whole program has basically been at 2/3 funding from the beginning. One of them will be dropped in the next six months.
I remember reading up on that debugging effort to reconstruct the footage.
As I reread some more of the released specs, am convinced you are correct. I happily accept your correction.
You know though, I could have sworn I read in one of the usual sources that there were structural changes beyond the fins.
Truth be told, I am not a fan of what I have seen so far, the interior, to me, isn't as important as the functionality, and frankly, I worry more about all up testing results than I do it looking neat. However, I concede that the best way to get business is to have a sleek and effective product rather than just a product that works.
We still have an hour and a half to go though until the actual unveiling. I'll be watching, then I suspect the both of us will be going over the information with a fine toothed comb.
Shall we collaborate?
Leaked controls interface from the new capsule.
>The 3 CCDev teams trying ton one-up each other in the spirit of competition
THIS is what space travel should be about. Healthy competition to motivate progress. Not Congress-mandated projects like the SLS.
Leaked map view interface from the new capsule.
That's the spoiler.
Likely as not, the main issue has to do with multiplexing in the multiple carriers and allocating a higher keying speed.
Normal shit really. Most dvbs-2 should handle the changes automatically but if they are using a newbridge multiplexer, I can see where they would have issues....
The reasons for the delays usually come down to requirements, motivation, time management, and time allocation. In this case, it is likely a number of small things which are resulting in the delay. I'm arguing for the newbridge issue myself.
Damn things never work right...
the latest month long delay was due to a burst helium tank… inside one of the fuel tanks. Big oops, had to disassemble it to replace and check tank integrity due to overpressure. New launch date is June 12.
Kind of reminds me of the Roton helicopter.
>yfw he goes to space in his dome seat and stunts on hoes
I like the integrated nose cone. It shows their dedication to a fully reusable system.
But they're still going to be throwing away interstages (with fancy solar panels on them). I wonder what they've got in mind to eventually end that.
Look the point is that the design is rather sparse in nature with only minor (in a way) improvements and the addition of 3 major systems:
1. 16K thrust engines for pad touch down.
2. Inclusion of enhanced abort system.
3. Retractable struts.
In terms of survivability and avionics:
Not much said. How is processing handled? Near as is revealed, the systems are legacies from V1 which while fine fail to improve upon existing processing structures.
The problem of course is that there are still major issues with their avionics. Granted they are comparitively minor compared to say space vs processing, but the fact remains, that unless if the systems integrate in such a way that an automatic docking can be achieved (He hinted at this but failed to elaborate) the process will still be done manually. Which indicates that the problems were not resolved.
This is my version of nitpicking by the way.
I'd also love to have a look at the RF system as well...
It was more than a cockpit as you will recall.
The changes in the shuttle (Save for columbia) allowed for lighter weights which meant more payload to orbit as well as a more reliable avionics system which was eventually utilized in all STS ships. This had a serious advantage of being able to compensate fully for changes in atmospheric dynamics and allowed for more efficient re-entry profiles. It wasn't just cockpit changes that were made on the orbiters.
That all aside, while I may be underwhelmed by the new ship. I do appreciate the fact that space saving is utilized to the highest degree possible to best accommodate the 7 member crew. This cannot be understated.
automatic docking is a function of the dock hardware. Dragon v1 cannot auto dock by design. The opening is designed for maximum cargo area instead. Dragon v2 will have the latest NASA design for docking instead (the station side of which will be going up on a cargo Dragon flight, appropriately).
Simple: What changes to the computer has been made to facilitate more efficient display and interface? How has this improved on the past?
When I ask these, I'm simply pointing out that the information given was rather sparse in nature. More time could have been dedicated to highlighting the changes and how this helps.
Again, I'm nitpicking here. I have no major issues with it yet, though I suspect I will also have more question about its re-entry profile, if the computer system is better able to make the minute corrections needed for this kind of landing, and perhaps a dozen other questions within a day or so.
I'm also following this in the nasaspaceflight forum, and they also admit that very little was new (besides the wicked cool fold-down console).
For example, a complaint about v1 was limited internal volume compared to Cygnus and other cargo spacecraft. Dragon v2 looks stretched, so I was hoping they'd tell us about increased internal volumes, but I didn't hear anything.
I'm pretty sure this is the final design.
I don't think that was a mock-up. I think that was an actual Dragon V2, which you could ride to space in.
They have to start testing it soon. They're currently waiting on FAA permits for the DragonFly test unit, which will do drop tests and VTOL tests.
I'm well aware of that.
I apologize but I dislike these "Public reveals" Because the important details, which are released in documents regarding design etc, are the real meat of it for me.
My being underwhelmed is simply because whenever you get new spacecraft revealed, generally the big reveal goes into detail about these big improvements and how they benefit. We got 3 major improvements but from the outset you can tell that a lot has to have been changed so far. Yet this was not described.
I'll say it though: I'm not discounting the design at all. As far as vehicles go, it has a number of decent innovations that ARE commendable.
Perhaps it also has something to do with his oratory skills. I am not certain. But his presentation didn't help. I suspect he would have been more comfortable in front of an engineering board or a group of scientists, discussing the changes.
More to the point, this craft must have life support for seven crew, including contingency time in case something goes wrong. Did they talk at all about their life support system?
Another amazing tidbit: the SuperDraco is the first rocket engine entirely using 3D-printing technology. Also, it is printed in Iconel, not sure if anything else has printed that material before.
Oh I confess that console is quite amazing. In fact, I will probably dig like crazy to get all the information I can on the entire computer system just because it implies something bigger there.
>Perhaps it also has something to do with his oratory skills. I am not certain. But his presentation didn't help. I suspect he would have been more comfortable in front of an engineering board or a group of scientists, discussing the changes.
Definitely agree with this, he seemed a bit awkward and not comfortable at all with the spotlight on him, I'm not sure if he's not good with that type of event or what but he didn't do a very good job presenting it.
>Another amazing tidbit: the SuperDraco is the first rocket engine entirely using 3D-printing technology. Also, it is printed in Iconel, not sure if anything else has printed that material before.
coolest part of the unveiling IMO even more than that bad ass computer screen.
From what I am seeing of their SMs, they seem to have taken a page from the gemini missions in the design and functionality. Efficient that may be, it does have a drawback of the requirement for the connections between CM and Sm which usually are one time only affairs. The utilization of that particular design suggests that a way to solve the one time use issue has been resolved.
Given the work hardening issues associated with Iconel, the utilization of 3D printing is in fact a good solution to that problem.
I am also curious to see how they accomplish that.
The console sure is nice but when you consider the layout of the draco engines and the overall shape of the capsule, you truly cannot help but imagine everything about the vehicle has been optimized.
Well to be frank, I worry like hell having the retractable foot pads such as they are. In order for the heat shield to hold true they must have found a way to resolve the probability of gaps forming in the heat shield and having a potential burn through.
Further, now that you bring up the layout of the engines, I have to wonder what the fin material happens to be and how it handles atmospheric re-entry. With that kind of configuration, there must be a serious amount of drag imparted onto those fins and the directing of heat from re-entry? I will be VERY curious about that issue.
I am not going to speculate more on the design issues tonight. However, I will compile a list of design questions and in future threads, will attempt to provide some in depth analysis of design changes and how they perform.
fins? you mean the trunk fins? they are discarded before reentry.
If you mean the SuperDraco cowlings (I think they call them the "Dragon snouts"), I think they are still behind the reentry shockwave. They revealed their wind tunnel model a few weeks ago, so we know they've been testing it.
I'm going to want to examine that.
Among other things, I assume these engineering issues would be worked out before implementation. However, their simple existence raises a number of questions that gives me fuel to examine in depth. Me raising these questions is not calling the design into doubt. But rather, considering from another standpoint how they overcame the inevitable issues that arise by these design configurations.
These though, are not critiques of its design. I wish to emphasize this as the impression can be rendered that I am merely dismissing it. Rather, when something new is revealed, I simply think of these aspects of the ship itself.
I blame it on me being a signals analyst really. Whenever I see something new that apparently works, my first question is usually : Well how did they do this? Aren't there problems with that? What solutions did they find?
Now I confess that the reveal was not spectacular. And the design is nothing really new or innovative beyond the major ones brought up. Still, those items alone spark inquisition after the initial thoughts wear off.
And for me, I actually feel that is more beneficial. I may be wary of something new at first, but me being wary makes me investigate it more, and if it checks out, it gets an a-ok in my book.
Ok, useless posting for me has ended. I will pick back up in a few days or weeks as information comes out.
Oops, I thought Russia said we would need a trampoline.
it is a trampoline, a trampoline with all the most modern avionics(modern in an avionics sense of the word.)
Well, this has been a fun thread. The news was not all that unexpected, but it's been interesting to see the details of the new spacecraft.
For the people who missed the unveiling, here's the youtube video of it:
And here's the best-quality version of the concept animation for how the new Dragon should be used:
Some info from the Q&A after the webcast ended:
>Crew launches from 39A
>Texas site is a go, can reach ISS from there as a backup location.
>BFR will move by boat from wherever they build it
>Dragon V2 will carry cargo in the trunk
>capsule is self sustaining for 7-10 days
>No helium system for BFR
>Dragonfly uses the v2 design
>the v2 shown tonight is actual flight hardware
>Over 1000 lbs cargo carried internally along with crew
>The telemetry from the CRS-3 booster splashdown was collected by an antenna made from a pizza dish stuck in his plane's window.
Musk is flashier, but Boeing also recently showed off their CST-100 interior and scale aerodynamic model at a space conference. Sierra Nevada showed landing drop tests of their Dream Chaser spaceplane. Both of them are behind SpaceX in development, so they haven't been publicizing as hard.
Propulsive landing, are you serious?
I doubt that thing has enough delta-v and twr to land using only rocket engines
Also why the hell would you use rocket engines when parachutes are less failure-prone and considerably cheaper
It will work, they are going to use their DragonFly vehicle to demonstrate the concept.
They only use parachutes for backup because you can only get pinpoint accuracy using lift (spaceplanes on a runway) or propulsion (Dragon to a landing pad).
There is one compromise that hasn't been used yet: airfoil parachutes. They considered this for Gemini and a cancelled lifting body spaceplane (Crew Return Vehicle).
The powerful rocket engines (and considerable fuel load) are required for launch abort.
The capsule has to be able to fly away from the launch vehicle very quickly if the launch vehicle starts to blow up or go off course.
So they can just use these same rockets for landing, and have the parachutes as a backup. It'll be much safer than relying on the parachutes alone, since parachutes aren't perfectly reliable either (which is why skydivers carry backup chutes).
I mean, look at the competition:
That's the Boeing CST-100, and half of what you hear about is that they need a calm day to do the drop test so their parachutes can work properly.
...and here's the Orion capsule:
Landing in a machine that flies under its own power is better than pulling the ripcord and hoping.
It was kind of disappointing to hear that even with a large volume of launches, seats on the Dv2 will still cost millions of dollars. I doubt it, but i hope that that price excluded the cost reductions from having re-usable Falcon rockets.
>since parachutes aren't perfectly reliable either
Which is why all vehicles have more than one canopy.
Given that the v2 propulsive landing hasn't even been demonstrated you cannot possibly claim to know which is safer.
I have no doubt that Musk will contribute greatly to the field, but Mars will be one thing that he won't see.
Unless he makes a charity mission to the red planet, but even then, it won't be the tourist destination he envisions.
Nerdy tech billionaires will foot the bill. They all grew up on Heinlein and Ray Bradbury, and would jump at the chance of founding a Mars colony. It would be their childhood dreams come true!