Here's Your First Look At The Dragon V2, America's Newest Spaceship

SpaceX has just officially announced their new manned-variant of their Dragon capsule, and it looks like a pretty sweet ride. So far we've seen some details, and we generally know what the layout is, but this is the first full view of the capsule so far. Should be a nice upgrade from the old Soyuz.

Musk is saying the new version will be able to land anywhere on earth like a helicopter, which means land-landings. A Soyuz made land-based returns, but with parachutes and not nearly as precise or controlled as this. Parachutes are retained to act as a backup, after confirming the engines work.

Here's Your First Look At The Dragon V2, America's Newest Spaceship

Other interesting details seen in an animation just shown show the "trunk" wrapped in solar panels, a flip-open nosecone for the docking hatch, and the ability for autonomous or manual docking. The Soyuz has had autonomous docking for a while, but this will be the first US spacecraft to use it.

Here's Your First Look At The Dragon V2, America's Newest Spaceship

Musk also confirmed the Dragon V2 will be able to simply be refueled and ready to go again— a first for a capsule. I'm curious to see how well this works in practice, since the Shuttle planned this concept, initially, only to find out it was more of a refurbishment than a refueling.

Here's Your First Look At The Dragon V2, America's Newest Spaceship

The new "Super Draco" 16,000 lb-thrust engines will be the first "printed" engines ever to be flown, and they'll be printed in inconel. I assume he means they'll use 3D printing technology here and not something stranger.

Here's Your First Look At The Dragon V2, America's Newest Spaceship

The fundamental airframe and structure of the Dragon V2 are shared with the cargo version of the Dragon, which has already proven itself on several space station resupply missions. Inside, there's seating for up to seven in a double-tiered configuration, which doesn't leave too much extra room for acrobatics or even a private restroom.

Still, the interior shown today looks spacious, at least, and the arrangement and style of the seats seem well-designed and maximize comfort without being too bulky. In 0-G everything should be roomier, anyway, since all that space is usable.

Here's Your First Look At The Dragon V2, America's Newest Spaceship

I'm curious about the hygiene facilities, and I'll report in detail when I find out more about what it's like to move your bowels on America's newest spaceship.

The avionics and controls are a pretty significant step up from even the most recently upgraded Soyuz, the Soyuz TMA, which finally replaced the tiny B&W CRTs with color flat-screens. The Dragon V2's control panels look to be very modern indeed, with four large portrait-display (Elon seems to love that orientation) screens. I'd love to know more about that wall-pattern, which reminds me both of spider webs and food-truck metal.

There's also a good number of windows in the capsule, which I'm sure everyone will appreciate.

Here's Your First Look At The Dragon V2, America's Newest Spaceship

Those huge screens flip up and down, to get out of the way, and all critical, emergency-need functions are available as physical buttons mounted between the screens. That's smart, and maybe something Elon should consider for the Tesla. Oh, and the radio volume.

Here's Your First Look At The Dragon V2, America's Newest Spaceship

The Dragon has pressurized interior volume of about 350 cubic feet, over 100 cubic feet more than an old Apollo capsule, but if you cram in seven, that's much less space per person than the three-person Apollo crews. Still, the Dragon is designed for ferry flights to and from the ISS, not multi-day lunar missions.

Here's Your First Look At The Dragon V2, America's Newest Spaceship

The manned Dragon retains the "trunk" of the cargo version, an unpressurized cylinder behind the crew capsule that can be used to carry almost 500 cubic feet of cargo. This section is not recoverable or reusable, so if you find yourself on a dragon, don't stick your laptop in there.

Here's Your First Look At The Dragon V2, America's Newest Spaceship

The capsule abort system is interesting because it's not a big, jettison-able tower like previous capsules. The launch abort system utilizes the same capsule-mounted engines used for the reaction control system (RCS) and, eventually, soft landing. It's the first real update to the old capsule-based way of doing things in at least 40 or 50 years.