“Crew Dragon” by SpaceX: feeder to the ISS and space capsule for space tourism

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The space capsule “Crew Dragon” from SpaceX transports astronauts to the ISS on behalf of NASA and is also used for space tourism excursions. An overview.

Hawthorne / Washington DC – For nine long years the once proud space nation USA was not able to send astronauts into space with its own rockets and from its own soil. The fact that the US has left this shame behind for some time is largely thanks to one man and his company: Elon Musk and SpaceX. The Tesla boss founded his company SpaceX in 2002 with the aim of one day colonizing Mars and making mankind a “multiplanetary species”.

On the way there, Musk, who is adored by fans and hated by many other people, revolutionized space travel with his “Falcon 9” rocket, since the first stage of the rocket lands on earth again after takeoff and can be reused. Falling prices for rocket launches were the result – and a boom in space travel. SpaceX, which has been transporting cargo to the International Space Station ISS with “Dragon” space transporters for years, also tried to win the contract to build crew capsules for the US space organization Nasa.

“Crew Dragon” space capsule from SpaceX: Developed on behalf of NASA

SpaceX and Boeing received an order from NASA as part of the “Commercial Crew” program to develop capsules for transporting astronauts to the ISS. However, the Boeing spacecraft “Starliner” has not yet completed a successful flight (as of October 2021), and no astronauts have flown inside the spacecraft so far. On the contrary, the SpaceX “Crew Dragon” model, a further development of the space freighter “Dragon”: It made its maiden flight to the ISS in autumn 2019, and no astronauts were inside. Since then, several successful flights by the “Crew Dragon” have followed.

Crew Dragon Space capsule
Manufacturer SpaceX
Crew max. 7 people
diameter 4 Meter
Height (with service module) 8,1 Meter
Stay in free space max. 10 days
Docked on the ISS 210 days

SpaceX’s “Crew Dragon” brings astronauts to the ISS

The first mission of the “Crew Dragon”, in which people were on board, set out for the International Space Station at the end of May 2020, where the spacecraft was put through its paces by NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. At the beginning of August, the astronauts returned to Earth on board the “Crew Dragon” – the SpaceX capsule had passed the acid test and was now considered ready for use. SpaceX bailed out NASA and has since made it possible for the US to send people into space again.

A “Crew Dragon” space capsule from SpaceX after returning to Earth: Drawn from the re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

© Nasa/Isaac Watson

SpaceX capsule “Crew Dragon” consists of two parts

The “Crew Dragon” space capsules from SpaceX consist of two parts: The actual capsule can accommodate up to seven astronauts inside. Critical cargo can also be transported in it. Additional cargo can be transported in a service module that is not under pressure. “Draco” thrusters are used to maneuver the capsule in orbit. Eight “SuperDraco” nozzles can quickly remove the capsule from the rocket before or during the launch in an emergency.

The service module is disconnected and burned up before it re-enters the earth’s atmosphere. The capsule, on the other hand, has a heat shield that allows it to return to Earth. The “Crew Dragon” automatically docks to the ISS, but can also be controlled by a pilot for the docking maneuver. The “Crew Dragon” can stay at the space station for at least 210 days, that was a requirement of NASA.

“Crew Dragon” space capsule from SpaceX is slowed down by parachutes and watered down

On its return to earth, the “Crew Dragon” capsule is braked by parachutes and then floods. Just like the “Falcon 9” rocket, SpaceX’s “Crew Dragon” was designed so that the capsule can be reused. The space capsule should be able to fly into space up to five times.

The “Crew Dragon” was built primarily for use as a feeder to the ISS, but SpaceX also uses it for other purposes. The first flight by four laypeople into space, the “Inspiration4” mission, took place with a “Crew Dragon” capsule, which was equipped with a large glass dome for this purpose. The specialty of the SpaceX space capsule: Professional astronauts: inside were not needed on board, as the capsule was largely automated. The passengers on board had only received enough training to pilot the capsule themselves in an emergency.

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The “Crew Dragon” capsules are being built directly in the USA by an American company – SpaceX. That creates jobs and pride in the country. The “Falcon 9” rocket from SpaceX, which shoots the space capsule into space, is also a US production. The various “Crew Dragon” space capsules are given names, as was customary with the space shuttles. As of October 2021 there are three “Crew Dragon” capsules that have a name: “Endeavor” (named after the space shuttle of the same name), “Resilience” and “Endurance”. A German astronaut will fly to the ISS for the first time with one of the capsules at the end of October 2021: Matthias Maurer. (tab)

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“Crew Dragon” by SpaceX: feeder to the ISS and space capsule for space tourism