Transporting astronauts to the International Space Station
2 March 2019
Crew Dragon is a spacecraft that will ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. When the space shuttles retired in 2011, Russia’s Soyuz rocket and capsule became the only way for astronauts to access the ISS. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner vehicles are the culmination of a NASA plan to return that capability to the United States.
In 2008, NASA awarded contracts to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation (now Northrop Grumman) for station cargo transportation, followed by crew vehicle contracts to SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corporation in 2012. Crew Dragon successfully completed its first demo flight to the International Space Station, without astronauts aboard, in March 2019. The first crewed flight could happen could happen as early as July, but is more likely to occur later in the year.
Crew Dragon departs ISS
Crew Dragon backs away from the International Space Station during its Demo-1 mission, following undocking on 8 March at 02:32 EST.
3 August 2012: NASA selects SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corporation for space station crew transportation
21 July 2011: Final space shuttle landing (STS-135 Atlantis)
8 July 2011: Final space shuttle launch (STS-135 Atlantis)
19 April 2011: NASA awards SpaceX funding for Crew Dragon launch abort system
1 February 2010: NASA cancels Constellation program, meaning Ares I and Orion will not replace the space shuttle for ISS transportation
23 December 2008: NASA selects SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation (now Northrop Grumman) for space station commercial cargo resupply
SpaceX Crew Dragon
The SpaceX Crew Dragon ahead of its uncrewed 2019 test flight.
Crew Dragon consists of two sections: a pressurized capsule capable of hosting up to 7 astronauts, and an unpressurized trunk that provides power and cargo storage space. The trunk gets jettisoned before vehicle reentry.
Dimensions: Full stack 8.23 meters tall. Pressurized capsule 4.88 meters tall, 3.96 meters in diameter. Unpressurized trunk 3.66 meters tall, 3.66 meters in diameter. | DM-1 post-FRR briefing
Propulsion: 16 Draco maneuvering thrusters, 8 SuperDraco engines (4 sets of 2) used for launch abort, including a late-stage orbital insertion if necessary.
Safety: Loss of Crew (LOC) metric is 1 in 270 with mitigations, 1 in 200 without mitigations.
Major differences from Cargo Dragon include the SuperDraco engines, an articulating nosecone to protect the vehicle's docking hardware during launch and reentry, fins used for stabilization in the event of a launch abort, and built-in rather than fold-out solar panels on the trunk, thanks to a lower overall power budget than Cargo Dragon. Starting with CRS-21 around 2020, Crew Dragon will replace Cargo Dragon for uncrewed cargo resupply flights to the ISS. | DM-1 post-FRR briefing