AIR SPACE

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.

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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