SpaceX, the private space travel company founded by Elon Musk, has unveiled its first manned spacecraft.
The Dragon V2 will be used to take into orbit – most likely to the International Space Station – and the world got its first in-depth look at it through a live webcast event in the early hours of this morning.
With the space shuttle now retired, space agencies have been using the Russian Soyuz craft to get astronauts aboard the ISS. But with NASA severing almost all its ties with Russia, the Dragon V2 will almost certainly become the USA’s preferred method in the future. It can also carry seven passengers to the Soyuz’s three.
The capsule won’t be blasting into orbit any time soon, however. Today’s event was merely the first public showing, and manned test flights are still a few years away. The first unmanned test flights won’t even take place until 2016.
SpaceX’s previous capsule, the unmanned Dragon, was the first private spacecraft to deliver supplies to the ISS. The 15-foot tall Dragon V2 improves on its predecessor in a number of ways: it lands using thrusters rather than crashes into the sea with parachutes, it’s designed for easier re-use – and of course it can carry people.