SpaceX’s Commercial Crew contender, the Dragon V2, will initially return to terra firma under parachutes, assisted by a SuperDraco soft touchdown firing, according to Dragon V2 Program Lead Dr. Garrett Reisman. Eventually, the impressive spacecraft will employ pinpoint propulsive landings, once the technology has been matured via the DragonFly test program.
The contact award process is secretive, due to competition rules. However, SpaceX’s Dragon V2 – and SNC’s Dream Chaser spaceplane – appear to have the groundswell of support within the space flight community.
With mission experience – ranging from manufacture and processing, to launch and mission operations – already proven, the transition to the Dragon V2 will mainly focus on the spacecraft’s increased capabilities.
The V2 is a major leap forward from her cargo lofting cousin. While her appearance is stunning – with a sporty Outer Mold Line (OML) and a Trunk with fins, along with an interior that makes some sci fi spacecraft seem dated – it’s her capabilities that provide most of her charms.
One such capability will be the employment of propulsive landings, something no other spacecraft is capable of doing.
As revealed by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk at the end of May, the Spacecraft will return under the protection of a third generation PICA-X heat shield, prior to turning on her set of SuperDraco thrusters, slowing her down for a guided touchdown at a designated landing site.
“That is how a 21st Century spaceship should land, ” Mr. Musk noted.
“Dragon V2 still retains the parachutes of Dragon V1, ” Mr. Musk explained at the event. “When Dragon reaches a particular altitude, a few miles before landing, it will test and verify all the engines are working and then proceed to a propulsive landing (or else revert to chutes).”
However, as was expected – and prudent – the Dragon V2 will not rush into utilizing propulsive landings.
The DragonFly testing regime will allow for engineers to fine-tune the technology, prior to the first propulsive landing for a Dragon V2.
You might also like:
NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services: A New Era in Spaceflight - History of International Space Station (ISS) Cargo and Crew, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Bigelow
eBooks (Progressive Management)