Science

Meet the next-generation Dragon spaceship
Private firm SpaceX hopes its Dragon craft -- launched into space on a thunderous Falcon 9 rocket -- will transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in the near future. Here's how it will work.
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Dragon preps in the hangar

In the SpaceX hangar at Cape Canaveral, the Dragon spacecraft prepares for integration with the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Visible at the base of the spacecraft is Dragon's heat shield, made of "PICA-X," the SpaceX manufactured variation on NASA's heat shield material. Dragon will reenter the Earth's atmosphere at around 15,660 miles per hour, heating the exterior to 1,850 degrees Celsius. Just a few inches of PICA-X should keep the spacecraft safe.

(Michael Rooks / SpaceX)

falcon 9 dragon cargo liftoff

A Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Dragon spaceship into outer space.

(SpaceX)

The Dragon

The Dragon rocket is designed to separate from the Falcon 9 rocket that has taken it into space, as shown in this illustration.

(NASA/SpaceX)

The Dragon

The Dragon spacecraft (capsule and cargo trunk) with solar panels deployed. 

(SpaceX)

The Dragon

The Dragon approaches the International Space Station, in this artist's rendering. 

(NASA/SpaceX)

The Dragon

Dragon finds a berth at the International Space Station in this artist's depiction.

(SpaceX)

dragon parachutes

The Dragon spacecraft parachutes to a safe landing in this artist's illustration.

(NASA)

The Dragon

A qualification unit of The Dragon sits at SpaceX's Hawthorne facility. 

(SpaceX)

dragon space capsule closeup

SpaceX's first privately built Dragon space capsule is shown mounted to a fixture in a hangar at Cape Canaveral, Fla., during launch preparations for its maiden test flight.

(Brian Attiyeh/SpaceX)

Meet the next-generation Dragon spaceship

Private firm SpaceX hopes its Dragon craft -- launched into space on a thunderous Falcon 9 rocket -- will transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in the near future. Here's how it will work.

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