While commercial spaceflight company SpaceX prepares for its long awaited first unmanned flight to the International Space Station, their engineers are hard at work to create a crewed version of the Dragon capsule. Until now, there hasn’t been much to go on except the volume specifications and the number of people slated to fly aboard. However, SpaceX recently completed its first NASA Crew Trial of a prototype manned capsule, giving us our first look inside the spacecraft.
Like the now-retired Space Shuttle, the Dragon can seat seven crew members in its 353 cubic foot space. To seat that many, the capsule has two rows of seats atop one another, with four on the upper level and three below. The seats are large enough to accomodate a 250 pound person, who is no taller than six-foot five inches. While that might sound cramped, the company brags that you can fit the entire crewed area of a Soyuz capsule inside a Dragon. Indeed, in addition to the seated crew, there is space for three people to stand and assist them.
The test primarily looked at the functionality of the prototype, with facsimiles of the environmental control systems, life support, displays, cargo racks, and the like. During the test, SpaceX and NASA evaluators — along with astronauts — boarded and exited the craft in simulations of normal and emergency situations. Their feedback will be key to furthering the development of the prototype, ensuring that the design of the spaceship makes sense for spaceflight.
Though a manned Dragon mission is still years away, it’s starting to feel a lot more real.
The test crew pictured above consists of, starting from top left: NASA Crew Survival Engineering Team Lead Dustin Gohmert, NASA Astronaut Tony Antonelli, NASA Astronaut Lee Archambault, SpaceX Mission Operations Engineer Laura Crabtree. Bottom row: SpaceX Thermal Engineer Brenda Hernandez, NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim, and NASA Astronaut Tim Kopra.
NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim, SpaceX founder Elon Musk, and SpaceX Commercial Crew Development Manager Garrett Reisman demonstrate that you can totally fit three more people into the Dragon.
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