SpaceX Dragon To Land On Any Planet

The upcoming SpaceX Dragon will be able to land on any planet in the solar system - any planet with a solid surface, that is.

The Congressionally mandated award is part of the agency's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) initiative that started in 2009 to help private companies mature concepts and technologies for human spaceflight.

This award will accelerate SpaceX’s efforts to develop the next-generation rockets and spacecraft for human transportation. With NASA’s support, SpaceX will be ready to fly its first manned mission in 2014.

The United States has a critical need for American commercial human spaceflight. After the space shuttle retires in a few months, NASA will be totally dependent on the Russian Soyuz to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) at a cost of $63 million per seat.

Dragon [is] designed to carry seven astronauts at a time to the Space Station at a cost of $20 million a seat.


(Space X Dragon video)

SpaceX's integrated escape system will be superior to traditional solid rocket tractor escape towers used by other vehicles in the past. Due to their extreme weight, tractor systems are jettisoned within minutes of liftoff to improve performance as the rocket climbs through the atmosphere, but the SpaceX innovative design builds the escape engines into the side walls of Dragon, eliminating the danger of releasing a heavy solid rocket escape tower after launch.

The integrated abort system will also provide a way to escape from the second stage of the booster throughout the climb to orbit, while allowing Dragon to carry more weight to orbit than if a tower-based system was used.

The SpaceX design also provides crew with emergency escape capability throughout the entire flight, whereas the space shuttle has no escape system. The result is that astronauts flying on Dragon will be considerably safer.

The integrated escape system returns with the spacecraft, allowing for easy reuse and radical reductions in the cost of space transport. Over time, the same escape thrusters will also provide the capability for Dragon to land almost anywhere on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy.

I'd like to note that it appears that the SpaceX Dragon will be able to land "on its fins" and then take off again, which any self-respecting space craft should be able to do.

Secondly, I thought I'd mention that this private space craft that can easily take off and then land back on a planetary surface sounds a lot like science fictional space craft like the Joy-boat Junior from Robert Heinlein's 1941 classic Methuselah's Children. In that novel, wealthy individuals owned space craft in the same way that wealthy individuals today own Lear jets.

From SpaceX.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/23/2011)

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