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 Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA) heat shield material. Dragon will reenter the Earth�s atmosphere at around 7 kilometers per second (15,660 miles per hour), heating the exterior up to 1850 degrees Celsius. However, just a few inches of the PICA-X material will keep the interior of the spacecraft at a comfortable temperature. (Michael Rooks / SpaceX)
The private spaceflight company Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, has added a new spacecraft to its fleet -- the Dragon space capsule -- that promises to be the first commercial spacecraft ever to make a round trip to low-Earth orbit.
Designed to launch on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, the Dragon space capsule are expected to initially make unmanned cargo delivery flights to the International Space Station. But they could eventually be modified to serve as private space taxis for orbit-bound astronauts. Here's an inside look at the Dragon spacecraft:
* Gallery: Photos of the Dragon Space Capsule, Dragon Video
* Top 10 Private Spaceships Becoming Reality
* Enter the Dragon: SpaceX's Private Space Capsule Ready for Test Flight
Copyright © 2010 Space.com. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.