SpaceX Falcon 9
The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon
capsule are not being designed like other space tourism enterprises
that will be taking passengers for a couple laps around the
earth. The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule is being built
to carry 7 persons and cargo to the International Space Station
(ISS) and back.
SpaceX Dragon 9 Capsule
SpaceX already has a COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation
Services) contract with NASA for three cargo re-supply missions
to the ISS.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 is based upon the SpaceX
Falcon 1, which has had a couple of test launches and
will be doing a commercial satellite launch in the latter
part of 2007.
Whereas the Falcon 1 is powered by one Merlin engine, the
SpaceX Falcon 9 will be powered by 9 of them, hence the name.
The Merlin engine is fueled by a combination of liquid oxygen
(LOX) and kerosene, housed by a single panel of copper and
The SpaceX Falcon 9 is a two stage rocket (launch vehicle)
made mostly from high strength aluminum to cut down on weight.
Some smaller parts are made from stainless steel and carbon
fiber where necessary.
One of the unique features of the SpaceX Falcon 9 is that
one of the Merlin engines can malfunction during takeoff and
the spacecraft will still be able to achieve its orbital objectives.
The engines produce 101,900 lbs-feet at sea level and the
Falcon 9 uses a hold-before-release system required by many
airlines but rarely implemented on spacecraft.
The Dragon capsule is a pressurized spacecraft used for Low
Earth Orbit (LEO) transportation of cargo and crew. The Dragon
can hold 7 crew members in a two-story, four-above and three
below seat configuration.
The Dragon uses a protective nosecone and high performance
heat shield for ascent and decent, a universal docking mechanism
compatible with the ISS for transportation of crew and cargo
and has three parachutes for ocean landings.
When the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule are finished
with the NASA contract, the spacecraft may be used for more
traditional space tourism ventures as well.
On June 4, 2010 Space X made a successful test launch with
the aid of NASA from Cape Canaveral, Florida. On December
8, the SpaceX Dragon was launched from Cape Kennedy, made
a trip into low earth orbit and was recovered at sea 500 miles
off the California coast. In a tribute to Monte Python a secret
payload was put onboard which was a wheel of cheese.