HAWTHORNE, Calif., 19 Sept. 2014. NASA officials have selected SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft to fly American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Under the $2.6 billion contract, SpaceX will launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop the Falcon 9 launch vehicle from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The Crew Dragon manned spacecraft will be capable of carrying up to seven crewmembers, landing propulsively almost anywhere on Earth, and refueling and flying again for rapid reusability, a SpaceX spokesperson describes. “Dragon was designed from the beginning to carry humans, and the upgraded human-rated vehicle will be one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown.” The vehicle’s Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) is designed to provide a comfortable environment for crewmembers.
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Crew Dragon’s launch escape system, reportedly the first of its kind, will provide escape capability from the time the crew enters the vehicle all the way to orbit. Should an emergency occur during launch, eight SuperDraco engines built into the side walls of the Dragon spacecraft will produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry astronauts to safety.
“This decision builds on SpaceX’s track record of successfully delivering critical cargo and science experiments to the space station for NASA,” a company spokesperson says.
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft currently resupplies the space station under a $1.6 billion Cargo Resupply Services contract with NASA.