Elon Musk last night revealed the new SpaceX reusable craft for seven astronauts which he hopes will ferry them back and forth to the International Space Station one day.
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The reason that this is really import,” said Musk, “is that it allows rapid reusability of the spacecraft. You just refill the propellant, and go again… Imagine if aircrafts were thrown away after each flight; no one could afford to fly.””
SpaceX had previously shown Dragon V1, a smaller, unmanned version of this craft meant primarily for testing and, in a few cases, sending cargo back and forth to the International Space Station. Dragon V2 also has an improved heat shield, allowing it to better protect passengers on their return flight through the atmosphere.
The biggest single change to the design, though, is in the engines: where each of Dragon V1′s engines (the “Draco” engine) could produce about 100 pounds of thrust, each of the Dragon V2′s engines (the aptly dubbed “Super Draco” engines) can produce about 16,000 pounds of thrust. The particularly cool part? SpaceX says they’re actually 3d printing the engines out of a specialized metal alloy (called inconel), as opposed to more traditional manufacturing methods like milling.