SpaceX CEO and billionaire founder Elon Musk gushed with excitement as he counted down the seconds and literally pulled the curtain away to unveil his company’s new manned Dragon V2 astronaut transporter for all the world to see during a live streaming webcast shortly after 10 p.m. EST (7 p.m. PST, 0200 GMT) this evening, Thursday, May 29, from SpaceX HQ.
The first photos from the event are collected herein. And I’ll be adding more and updating this story as they flow in.
But this was the real deal and hopefully gets America moving again back to thrilling, real space adventures in orbit and beyond – reaching for the stars.
“The Dragon V2 is a 21st century spacecraft, ” Musk announced to a wildly cheering crowd. “As it should be.”
“An important characteristic of that is its ability to land anywhere on land, propulsively. It can land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter.”
“I think that’s what a spaceship should be able to do.”
“It will be capable of carrying seven astronauts. And it will be fully reusable.”
The sleek gleaming spaceship looks decidedly different from the current cargo Dragon V1.
This new manrated Dragon is aimed at restoring US human launch access to space from American soil by carrying crews of up to seven US astronauts to low Earth orbit and eventually perhaps Mars – starting as soon as 2017.
Musk unveiled the gumdrop-shaped Dragon V2, or Version 2, to an overflow crowd of employees and media at SpaceX headquarters and design and manufacturing facility in Hawthorne, CA.
But Musk and SpaceX are not alone in striving to get Americans back to space.
Two other US aerospace firms – Boeing and Sierra Nevada – are competing with SpaceX to build the next generation spaceship to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS by 2017 using seed money from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in a public/private partnership.
Altogether they have received more than $1 Billion in NASA funding.
The Boeing CST-100 and Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser ‘space taxis’ are also vying for funding in the next round of contracts to be awarded by NASA around late summer 2014.
The ‘Dragon V2’ is an upgraded, man-rated version of the unmanned Dragon cargo spaceship that just completed its third operational resupply mission to the ISS with a successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on May 18.
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NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services: A New Era in Spaceflight - History of International Space Station (ISS) Cargo and Crew, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Bigelow
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