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Elon Musk and the Dragon V2
Who needs Russia when we have SpaceX?

NASA currently has to rely on Russia to shuttle its astronauts to the International Space Station (at a cost of $60 million per seat), and recent months have shown that the relationship between the two countries is shaky at best.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin joked that NASA should use a trampoline to launch its astronauts into orbit, to which SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded:

Well, Musk is making good on his promise and tonight unveiled his vision for the future of human spaceflight for NASA. The Dragon V2 is a massively upgraded (and enlarged) version of the unmanned Dragon capsule that has been shuttling supplies to the ISS since 2012. Musk calls the seven-passenger Dragon V2 “a big leap forward in technology” that can “land anywhere on land propulsively [with] the accuracy of a helicopter.”

The Dragon V2 can dock with the ISS without the need for the Canadarm and also retains the landing parachute of the original Dragon. The onboard computers will test the landing engines a few minutes before landing to ensure that they are fully operational. If the computer determines that everything checks out, the capsule will land under propulsive power. If the landing engines aren’t functioning properly, the parachute will be deployed to ensure a safe landing.
Another exciting feature of the Dragon V2 is what Musk calls “rapid reusability” -- the ability to refuel the capsule immediately after it lands and send it right back into space again. Musk said that this is the key to revolutionizing access to space. Musk mentioned the airline industry, stating that it would not be feasible for airlines to simply throw out their aircraft after every successful flight.
Musk is hoping to start transporting astronauts from Earth to the ISS by 2017 (2018 at the latest). It should be noted that Boeing, Blue Origin, and Sierra Nevada also have contracts with NASA to develop manned crew vehicles

Source: SpaceX

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Who wants to bet...
By peterrushkin on 5/29/2014 11:52:43 PM , Rating: 5
That Tony Stark... erm I mean Elon Musk will get the US to Mars?

I wonder what this guy has in store next. He is literally pushing Man's envelope!

RE: Who wants to bet...
By Jeffk464 on 5/30/14, Rating: 0
RE: Who wants to bet...
By CharonPDX on 5/30/2014 12:52:34 AM , Rating: 2
Not really "one dude"... If he died in a freak accident tomorrow (okay, knowing him, it probably would be "well, yeah, we kind of saw that coming - I mean, why WOULDN'T he wrestle with a shark while skydiving?") it's not like SpaceX would instantly cease. The raw force behind it may go out, but as a company, they still have plenty of dedicated, interested folks.

(Disclaimer: I know someone who worked on the SuperDraco engine.)

RE: Who wants to bet...
By Jedi2155 on 5/30/2014 3:04:15 AM , Rating: 3
Maybe your not taking into consideration that this "one dude" actually has vision.....and the creativity, know-how, pocketbook, and bravado to actually push us forward.

Losing Elon would be like Apple losing Steve Jobs. Sure they'll survive and continuing releasing quality parts. But it just won't be exciting, bring us to new heights, new markets, and new features.

It just wouldn't be the same.

RE: Who wants to bet...
By Mint on 5/30/2014 5:56:57 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah, but Musk has laid out a 10-20 year vision for SpaceX that the entire company is dedicated to achieving. Apple seems directionless because Jobs never did (though to be fair, he's in an industry prone to consumer swings in taste).

SpaceX will thrive for a long time now even without Musk, as the foundation is laid. He raised funds, gathered and organized talent, brought production efficiency to new heights in the industry, and guided SpaceX to a colossal technological lead when it comes to reusable rockets. Those are the really spectacular achievements, and IMO the steps remaining to bring man to Mars aren't as impressive.

Tesla, OTOH, will need more of his vision. Lots of make-or-break decisions in its future.

RE: Who wants to bet...
By Cypherdude1 on 6/1/2014 1:13:40 AM , Rating: 2
The real question is: How much will it cost NASA to use the Dragon SpaceX? Will it be less than the $60M per person the Russians charge? The Russian fifth generation combat jets cost far less than the F-22 and the F-35.

I'm wondering if this private USA company will charge less than the Russians. Of course, it would be much cheaper just to use a trampoline or perhaps a very large rubber band powered slingshot. The Tea Party would love that.

RE: Who wants to bet...
By DougF on 6/3/2014 6:04:30 AM , Rating: 2
SpaceX is estimating $20M per seat, or $140M for all seven astronauts at one time. That's a savings of about $50M per ride compared to the Russians.

RE: Who wants to bet...
By dlapine on 6/3/2014 4:16:28 PM , Rating: 2
To be fair, EM stated that the NASA price would be $20M per seat, but only if they used all 7 seats. I'd assume that the total price wouldn't change if they took fewer members. Also, if the Dragon V2 only takes 3 crew, they'd able to carry extra cargo in the bottom row for that type of trip. DragonRider has lots of excess lift. Cargo is volume limited.

Crew rotation to ISS is usually limited to 3 new members to replace the last 3 person crew coming off. As things stand now , NASA wouldn't use 7 seats, as the station only has room/supplies for 6 crew at a time.

Still paying $140M for just 3 astronauts is $40M cheaper than the $180M the Russians charge, and it would remove our reliance on their good will for access to the station.

RE: Who wants to bet...
By slunkius on 5/30/2014 12:56:36 AM , Rating: 4
and what about reading full article? you know, right at the bottom:

It should be noted that Boeing, Blue Origin, and Sierra Nevada also have contracts with NASA to develop manned crew vehicles.

RE: Who wants to bet...
By StormyKnight on 5/30/2014 1:22:55 PM , Rating: 2
He is literally pushing Man's envelope!

I thought the post office was doing that.


Try the veal! I'm here all week!!

By Visual on 5/30/2014 4:46:44 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder why a powered landing is preferred to parachutes, if the parachutes also get reasonably close to the desired location and result in no damage to the craft. I guess like much of the things humans do, "because we can".

As KSP has shown us, this whole thing is in fact too trivial for the attention it is getting ;)

Really, it doesn't matter much what sits on top of your rocket, the last stage is more or less guaranteed to be the easiest thing to design and land. Whether it is cargo or humans, a bit smaller or a bit larger, as long as the earlier stages can get it there, and it has adequate reentry shields, it is all the same. For that reason I'm even a bit surprised they can't do manned tests even earlier.

The real good bits of Musk's program are the reusable lower stages, where the real cost-savings will be made. And even there it seems like some parachutes may do the job easier than powered landing... Then again, unlike in KSP, real-life parachutes do not have "PhysicsSignificance = 1" in the config file...

RE: ez
By thorr2 on 5/30/2014 5:02:23 AM , Rating: 5
Probably because landing a huge object like that would land with a big thud using a parachute. That is why they have landed in the water in the past. A powered landing allows them to touch down softly on land.

RE: ez
By delphinus100 on 5/31/2014 11:52:43 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. Even the Russians, descending under parachute on Soyuz (and the Chinese, who use essentially the same design), also use rockets that fire at literally the last second, triggered by a hanging probe.

That's why they raise a serious cloud of dust at touchdown.

RE: ez
By mjv.theory on 5/30/2014 6:32:07 AM , Rating: 5
I guess like much of the things humans do, "because we can".

No. It's because they want to and need to.

Those "lower stages" are referred to as the "first stage" or the "boost stage". At separation the first stage is travelling at about 4,500 mph. You need to use the engines for supersonic retro propulsion to avoid the thermal damage of re-entry. You then need to direct the stage to a landing site, preferably boost back (close) to the launch site. Having had to use the engines to do that much, you may as well use them to soft land. Landing by parachute would be no slower than about 8 m/s, landing propulsively is effectively 0 m/s. The difference in terms of damage to a rocket stage would be considerable.

Dragon needs abort escape engines. You either throw them away on every launch at a cost of several millions each time or keep them for re-use. By retaining the escape engines you have acquired effectively free landing engines, so you may as well use them. In the process you save the vehicle from being soaked in salt water and gain the ability to land precisely where you want, for maximum convenience and, more importantly, cost savings.

Having built-in powerful engines also gives Dragon the capability to land on planets that do not have any oceans. Specifically Mars, but also any solid or liquid surface in the solar system.

RE: ez
By m51 on 5/31/2014 2:08:57 AM , Rating: 2
You can also soft land under propulsion under much more unfavorable wind conditions than with parachutes. Especially with the booster cores you are not going to land those undamaged via parachutes under anything but perfect windless conditions.

Propulsive landing for both stages and capsule is a very smart move towards the goal of massive cost reduction.

RE: ez
By Nexos on 5/30/2014 7:09:27 AM , Rating: 2
You just click on EVA about 20m off the ground, and aim your pilot helmet down. duh.
Kerbal physics = best physics.
(old video, but this trick still works)

Also struts.

RE: ez
By US56 on 6/2/2014 5:32:27 PM , Rating: 1
They've chosen a traditional low-risk "spam-in-a-can" design with the option of a high-risk rocket powered final descent. There are potential liability issues as well as psychological and medical issues for the crew with the pure rocket powered approach. The crew isn't going to know if they've survived the mission until the last few seconds if not the very last second of the descent. With a properly designed parachute system they're pretty much home free once the chutes deploy and they get to enjoy the epinephrine rush on the way to touchdown. In the event of a successful rocket-only final descent, the epinephrine rush would be intense, maybe a little too intense for older astronauts. In the event of a rocket system failure during the final descent, it would be difficult to explain why they had a perfectly good parachute system on board and didn't use it.

RE: ez
By DougF on 6/3/2014 6:02:23 AM , Rating: 2
Both modes are fully available for landing (for values of fully above the minimum height required to deploy the chutes). The primary mode is a powered descent with engines. If the engines don't work, the parachute is sprung. Of course there is risk. If the parachute tangles or fails to fully deploy, or if more than two of the engines fails, etc, etc.
Seems to me that being able to land on a pad of your choosing (within the cross-range capability) would be a much better option than "somewhere off the coast" where expensive naval assets are deployed to recover the capsule, or "somewhere in the wasteland" with expensive helicopters deployed to recover the capsule.

Exponential extraterrestrial production
By dobermanmacleod on 5/30/2014 5:14:07 AM , Rating: 2
SpaceX is now the premier space delivery company. What they now need to do is refine 3D printing technology to enable exponential production using soil from extraterrestrial sources. Pack up the 3D printer alone with some processing equipment, land on an extraterrestrial body, produce various toner from the soil, and make more 3D printers and equipment, thus rapidly scaling up production.

RE: Exponential extraterrestrial production
By Nexos on 5/30/2014 7:00:48 AM , Rating: 2
I hope you know that that linked article is a joke (literally), not a real piece of news.

Also, you completely glossed over that little "processing equipment" bit. Refining minerals without the benefit of an atmosphere, liquid water and a massive power source is really difficult. Also, most 3d printers use some kind of organic polymer resin as "toner", which can only be (practically) made from hydrocarbons, which are not present on most extraterrestrial bodies in meaningful quantities.

RE: Exponential extraterrestrial production
By gwem557 on 5/30/2014 11:14:11 PM , Rating: 2
Uh, there's more hydrocarbons on a 10 degree slice of Jupiter than on earth entirely, and Saturn isn't far behind...

RE: Exponential extraterrestrial production
By Nexos on 5/30/2014 11:40:23 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, lets start mining the gas giants, that sounds real practical.

RE: Exponential extraterrestrial production
By gwem557 on 6/1/2014 2:07:08 PM , Rating: 2
It will be, some day. However, your statement was 'There's no significant quantities of hydrocarbons on other bodies' (sic).

I was merely correcting your false statement, I said nothing about mining.

By Nexos on 6/2/2014 5:02:39 AM , Rating: 2
My bad, I should have clarified that sentence with "accessible to us", I was responding to a post about resource gathering after all, which implies some form of access.

There is a much better source of hydrocarbons in that part of the solar system anyway, theres no need to jump straight to mining the gas giants themselves (something that is far beyond our capabilities, and may never be feasible). I'm talking about saturns moon Titan of course, the veritable holy grail of hydrocarbons. I wish there was as much interest in visiting Titan as there is for Mars, which is a pretty boring old rock when compared to some of the other worlds in our solar system (imo).

By tonyhallmailbox on 5/30/2014 1:10:34 PM , Rating: 2
And where is he from?
South Africa !!! The Best country in the world !

RE: Elon
By StormyKnight on 5/30/2014 1:26:32 PM , Rating: 2
South Africa !!! The Best country in the world !

Ah, that explains the mass immigration to that country from all corners of the world...

RE: Elon
By tonyhallmailbox on 5/30/2014 1:30:37 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, some of the best minds in the world come from there. :)

RE: Elon
By peterrushkin on 5/30/2014 3:08:01 PM , Rating: 1
Then why is it not a utopia if its so great? Oh yeah, its a complete dump! Look at Haiti, South Africa's future in 25 years.


Just three are still CCDev
By danjw1 on 5/30/2014 2:28:21 PM , Rating: 2
There are only three competitors left in the CCDev program: SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corp. The others were dropped before the current phase 3 started. Others are trying to do it on their own, but do not have the support of NASA.

RE: Just three are still CCDev
By delphinus100 on 5/31/2014 11:58:06 PM , Rating: 2
That 'other' (singular) is Blue Origin...

RE: Just three are still CCDev
By dlapine on 6/3/2014 4:24:01 PM , Rating: 2
To be technical, Boeing is also building the Orion capsule for the SLS program, which has been designated as the official alternative if the CCDev selected vehicle has an issue. so we will potentially wind up with 4 US-developed manned vehicles- Orion, Dragonrider, DreamShaser and CST-100.

At some point, NASA will downselect to just one of the last three.

Elon Musk can't be trusted
By YearOfTheDingo on 5/30/2014 12:50:50 PM , Rating: 1
The last time I visited SpaceX, he tried to have me killed in a centrifuge chamber. The man obviously has a nefarious agenda. It remains a mystery why he's building a private fleet of spacecraft. I suspect this effort is somehow connected to radical environmentalism.

RE: Elon Musk can't be trusted
By vip2 on 5/30/2014 7:05:13 PM , Rating: 2
That must be it exactly! He must have built his large orbital stealth space station by now. It will all be confirmed once Dragon capsules start disappearing during flight and/or transport.

RE: Elon Musk can't be trusted
By Bubbacub on 5/31/2014 4:28:23 PM , Rating: 2
i swear i saw that one of his security guys had metal teeth...

By Fidget on 5/30/14, Rating: 0
RE: So...
By m51 on 5/30/2014 11:17:26 AM , Rating: 2
Almost all the orbital velocity is shed via air drag on re-entry.
The terminal velocity of the capsule as it falls through the atmosphere is only around 100-150 meters/sec.

The thrusters only have to supply that 150 m/sec dV, plus gravity losses.

RE: So...
By Bubbacub on 5/30/2014 12:45:20 PM , Rating: 2
Orbital velocity is ~Mach 25. Terminal velocity of something like a dragon is ~ few hundred mph.

The atmosphere does the slowing down - the super Draco's are just to decelerate a fairly small capsule.

Given that they are primarily launch abort rockets they are massively overpowered for landing ( I.e. they are made to accelerate faster than the falcon 9 rocket under it ~4-5g of acceleration - landing requires one g of thrust at most.

Dragon V2 - upgrade
By Dragonsan on 5/30/14, Rating: 0
RE: Dragon V2 - upgrade
By Brandon Hill on 5/30/2014 12:23:05 PM , Rating: 2
That makes no sense.

RE: Dragon V2 - upgrade
By Bubbacub on 5/30/2014 12:48:47 PM , Rating: 2
So massively decrease payload to orbit and go through years of development to validate the flight model to get what benefit exactly?

I guess you would get a bit of an increase in cross range - which isn't needed because its not 1970 and we arnt making sts.

No way
By ssobol on 6/2/2014 4:54:24 PM , Rating: 2
that thing can make a powered descent like shown in the video. It would take much more fuel than the capsule can carry to make a soft landing from any reasonable height. Perhaps if there was a parachute descent for most of the medium to low altitude portion of the landing and then jettison the parachutes and use power for the last bit.

Also, the hinged aero cover for the docking mechanism seems unnecessary and a weight penalty. After lift off it is just dead weight and one more thing that can fail. Apollo capsules re-entered just fine with a lot of the docking system exposed (some parts were jettisoned in space).

SpaceX wants a 100% reusable vehicle. But the penalties to be able to say that may be more than they are worth.

RE: No way
By DougF on 6/3/2014 6:13:05 AM , Rating: 2
It doesn't make a powered descent the entire way. The vast majority of speed is shed via aerobraking (hence the ablative shield on the bottom). The engines just have to slow down the last few 00's of miles per hour to a touchdown.

SpaceX is about reusability, so it makes sense to keep the cover instead of replacing it every time. The capsules are supposed to make up to 10 trips each. And the last thing we want is more "stuff" jettisoned in space, it's cluttered enough up there as it is. It may also be required to provide aerodynamic stability for the capsule, both on ascent and on re-entry.

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