SpaceX unveils Dragon V2 manned space capsule

The private company's first manned spacecraft can carry up to seven people to the International Space Station.
By Kate Stanton  |  June 1, 2014 at 9:08 PM
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HAWTHORNE, Calif., June 1 (UPI) -- SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Dragon V2 space capsule at an event at company headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., on Thursday.

The next-generation V2 can carry up to seven astronauts and cargo from Earth to the International Space Station. Russia's Soyuz capsules only seat three.

Musk told reporters that the V2, which boasts SuperDraco thrusters made by a 3D printer, can "land anywhere on Earth with accuracy of helicopter."

The capsule is reusable which means it can go back-and-forth from Earth to the ISS.

"As long as we continue to throw away rockets and spacecraft, we will never have true access to space," Musk said. "If aircraft were thrown away with each flight, nobody would be able to fly -- or very few. The same is true of rockets and spacecraft."

The V2 is an upgraded version of the Dragon, a cargo ship that returned safely to Earth last month.

Musk predicted that in as few as 20 years, human beings could be embarking on "thousands" of space flights per year.

"We want to get to the point where we have thousands of space flights per year, and ultimately where we have a base on the moon and we have [bases] for other civilizations, that's where things need to go in the long term," he said. "Eventually we will be able to go beyond our solar system."

The Dragon V2 is a boon for NASA, which paid Russia $71 million for each American astronaut it wanted to send to the ISS. Musk said that NASA footed 50 percent of the bill for the capsule upgrade.

"Really we would not be where we are today without the help of NASA," he said.

The Dragon V2 unveiling comes at an opportune time for American astronauts.

NASA suspended relations with its Russian counterpart in April over the Ukraine crisis. The head of Russia's space program, Deputy Prime Minster Dmitry Rogozin, said weeks later that Americans could use a "trampoline" to get to space.

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