Sunday, June 1, 2014

SpaceX: Inside Elon Musk's Dragon V2 Spaceship (Video)

In an event worthy of a Hollywood premiere, billionaire inventor Elon Musk unveiled – quite literally – his new manned Dragon Version 2 spacecraft Thursday night (May 29).

The SpaceX plant is located in the old Northrop Grumman facility, adjacent to the Hawthorne Municipal Airport but you'd never guess it upon entering.

While the place was dressed for the occasion, it is clearly a stunning workplace, especially for an aerospace company.

The bars were staffed and libations flowed freely. Hors d' oeuvres were everywhere. The crowd, an assemblage of VIPs, current and future customers and reporters numbered many hundreds.

Employees were also well represented, recognizable by their event-specific black polo shirts with a celebration of Dragon V2 emblazoned across the front and back.

Dance club lighting and music with a thumping beat completed the festive atmosphere. Anticipation built until about 7:30 p.m., when, to loud applause and rock-concert cheers, Musk took to the stage wearing a velvet blazer and a broad smile.

"Welcome, everyone, to Hawthorne, headquarters of Space Exploration Technologies," Musk began. "We are here to unveil Dragon Version 2…"

"When we first created Dragon Version 1, we didn't really know how to create a spacecraft; we had never designed a spacecraft before."

He said that this first version of the craft had a conventional approach to landing, using parachutes to splash down off the California coast.

"An important step from that is to land anywhere, on land, propulsively," Musk said. "That's one of the things Dragon Version 2 will be able to do."

He described the landing accuracy of the new system to be equivalent to that of a helicopter. "That's something that a modern spaceship should be able to do."

After a few more comments, and after a classic launch countdown accompanied by disco lighting, he gestured to the curtained stage behind him, and the cover fluttered away to more applause, cheers and whistles.

There, in picture-perfect lighting and with a foggy mist rolling out from underneath, was the Dragon Version 2.

Comparison to the first version was easy and immediate since the first Dragon to return from orbit was hung overhead, scarred sides and heat shield clearly visible.

Version 2 is markedly larger, sports three large windows on and to each side of the hatch, and, most remarkably, four landing legs sprouting from the bottom.

The manned version of SpaceX's Dragon capsule will land using thrusters on Earth, as shown in this artist illustration. 

Credit: SpaceX 

Musk narrated a portion of his unveiling inside the Dragon Version 2 spacecraft, May 29, 2014. The control panel in front of him swings up and completely out of the way for easy entrance and egress. 

Credit: Rod Pyle

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