Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) recently completed a critical design review of its versatile (crewed) Dragon spacecraft.
The concept baseline review presented NASA with the primary and secondary design elements of its Dragon capsule designed to carry astronauts into low Earth orbit, including the International Space Station (ISS).
SpaceX also provided details about each phase of a potential crewed mission, including how the company plans to modify its launch pads, Dragon's docking capabilities, the weight and power requirements for the spacecraft, as well as prospective ground landing sites and techniques.
In addition, the company outlined crew living arrangements, such as environmental control and life support equipment, along with displays and controls.
"SpaceX has made significant progress on its crew transportation capabilities," NASA exec Ed Mango confirmed. "We commend the SpaceX team on its diligence in meeting its goals to mature the company's technology as this nation continues to build a real capability for America's commercial spaceflight needs."
According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, safety was a "key focus" of the review, as NASA was presented with analyses on how its SuperDraco launch abort system would perform if an emergency were to occur during launch or ascent. As expected, the review outlined plans for moving astronauts away from danger quickly and safely on the way to low Earth orbit - both in space and during the return home.
"The successful conclusion of the concept baseline review places SpaceX exactly where we want to be - ready to move on to the next phase and on target to fly people into space aboard Dragon by the middle of the decade," said Musk.
While NASA works with US industry to develop commercial spaceflight capabilities to low Earth orbit, the agency also is building the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS), a crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket, to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration of deep space.
Designed to be flexible for launching crew and cargo missions, Orion and SLS will expand human presence beyond Earth and enable new missions of exploration across the solar system.