SpaceX Crew Dragon reinvents the look of a modern spacecraft
We’ve all seen the iconic winged spacecraft that appear in movies. But this week’s Space X launch seeks to rebrand that image while also making the new spacecraft safer for passengers.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon’s design keeps the encapsulated look of the center minus the wings, similar to that of an aircraft, the public is used to seeing.
The original design for spacecraft was considered too bulky for a modern mission. The old space shuttles stood at about 56 feet tall and had a wingspan of 78 feet, not to mention that ti contained an external fuel tank and two separate rocket boosters.
The SpaceX design is much sleeker and lends itself to the look of a capsule, standing at just 26 feet tall with a 13-foot diameter.
NASA Astronaut Robert Behnken said of the new spacecraft, “a capsule design is a pretty tried and true design and it gives us an abort capability from the pad all the way up into space and the space shuttle, well-publicized, did not have that capability.”
Not only is the new design sleeker but it also packs a more powerful punch. As Dragon connects to the Falcon 9 Rocket, it harnesses the power of nine engines.
That’s the equivalent of five 747 jets at full power or over 1.7 million pounds of thrust. The Falcon 9 rocket flies back to earth bottom first after liftoff and lands softly so the parts are safe for reuse.
The new spacecraft has an updated interior to match the exterior. Touchscreens have replaced the large panel of buttons and knobs inside the original space shuttle.
There are no joysticks for control, only touchpads. The entire system is now digital. Behnken said he’s always had “a way to control a vehicle for my career and this is going to be certainly different” now that there’s no knobs and buttons.
Liftoff and landing are different compared to earlier space shuttles as well. For liftoff, it may be smoother for passengers but also much louder. As far as landing is concerned, in place of landing on a runway as was customary with older space shuttles, the new SpaceX craft launches back into Earth’s orbit, deploys parachutes, and sends passengers into the ocean.
“Doug and I are getting ready for that but expect it to be softer than a Souez but harder than a space shuttle landing,” said Behnken.