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SpaceX has just unveiled its Space taxi, also known as the Dragon V2. Since the retirement of Space Shuttle, the only vehicle capable of taking astronauts into low orbit space travel for space station docking was the Russian Soyuz, which is only capable of taking three astronauts into space at a time. The Dragon V2 is the second version of the Dragon Capsule. Version 1 of the Dragon Capsule was unmanned and was utilized to carry supplies to the International Space Station. The V2 is now capable of taking both cargo and a seven man crew on flights to space.
SpaceX is a private company that was contracted to design the Dragon V2. There has been a need to outsource this sort of work ever since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s space shuttle program was shut down back in 2011. The new capsule is capable of docking at the International Space Station, comes equipped with parachutes making it capable of water landings, and also comes with launch abortion engines known SuperDraco Thrusters which will provide astronauts a quick escape method in case of an emergency. Other private companies such as Boeing have been given similar contracts to create similar spacecraft.
The unveiling of the SpaceX space taxi now is actually the result of a promise made by CEO Elon Musk, who posted the pledge on his twitter account a month ago. Restricting the use of the Soyuz for American astronauts has been part of Russia’s response to economic sanctions imposed upon Russia by the United States as a result of the crisis in Ukraine. With the introduction of this new craft, American astronauts will once again be able to take flight. Musk added as a joke that a trampoline will no longer be necessary, a response to a joke previously made by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who stated that American astronauts would need a trampoline if they weren’t able to use the Russian craft.
SpaceX had been awarded a $1.6 billion contract from NASA to provide a ship that would allow American crews to make low-orbit flights from Earth to the International Space Station and back. Reportedly, the U.S currently owes an outstanding bill of $457.9 million dollars to Russia, due to the fact that it currently costs the United States $71 million dollars each to send astronauts into space via the Russian Soyuz. Charles Bolden, the NASA administrator stated that having to rely on Russia to ferry American astronauts was unacceptable.
SpaceX will be unveiling the space taxi at 7pm on May 29 PDT. The company plans to have the first Dragon V2 constructed and capable for launch in 2017. In Brownsville, Texas, SpaceX will beging building a launch site along Boca Chica beach. Environmental reports stated that there would be a minimal impact on the surrounding ecosystem. The CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, will reveal the designs for this new craft at SpaceX’s rocket factory in Hawthorne, CA. Attending the actual event is by invitation only, though those who are interested in seeing the unveiling live will be able to watch the streamed version of the unveiling on the company’s website.
By David Jones