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NASA Space Transportation Science Technology

SpaceX Gets Astronauts To Try Out Its Dragon Crew Cabin 84

Zothecula writes "With the space shuttle program now officially over, the United States needs a new reusable vehicle for getting supplies to and from the International Space Station. NASA is considering the Dragon spacecraft, designed by California-based SpaceX Exploration Technologies, to take over that role. The Dragon's scheduled late March/early April test flight to the ISS will be unmanned, utilizing a cargo configuration of the spacecraft. Last Friday, however, SpaceX released photographs of an engineering model of its planned seven-passenger crew cabin, complete with a crew that included real, live astronauts."
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SpaceX Gets Astronauts To Try Out Its Dragon Crew Cabin

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  • And 3 of them are of the interior (which I honestly don't care about), and the exterior picture is at a pretty lame angle.
    • Re:Only 4 images? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:45AM (#39413277) Journal
      Well, the crew isn't being strapped to the outside of the capsule, now are they? The article is about how a crew might feel about the accommodations inside the Dragon capsule, so why the hell wouldn't they have a bunch of interior shots?

      If you want images of the exterior of the craft, use your search engine of choice: the internet shall provide.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Well seeing as how you can put a lazy boy in a cardboard box and shoot me into space I would be quite comfortable until my box exploded. I would be more comfortable as a crew member knowing the exterior of my wessel was sturdy and well designed.
        • Hey! (Score:5, Funny)

          by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:35AM (#39413869) Journal

          the exterior of my wessel was sturdy and

          Pavel Chekov... is that you?

        • by necro81 ( 917438 )
          Oh, you mean you were looking for the article that describes the extremely confidential technical design review that NASA has done on the Dragon capsule, to see if it is space-worthy and (potentially) human-usable. Yes, I am quite certain we will see that posted next week.
          • Sweet! Will it be here on /.? I am going to be mad as hell if it turns out to be a cardboard box....
            • as funny as your trying to be, considering this is being made and run by a private corporation. and like all of them they have a financial 'interest' to cut corners. i would not be surprised if it's made of the space craft version of cardboard and duct tape.

              as Neil Armstrong pointed out to congress, they value money over safety. and because of that, something is going to fail, and there won't be a backup because backup's cost money.

              i personally will not be surprised that the first launch will end with every

              • The spacecraft is worth a substantial amount of money. And the spacecraft needs the spam inside to make it work right. Even if you're only talking about economic interest, they'll put a fair amount of effort towards protecting said spam.
              • by Anonymous Coward

                Who do you and Neil Armstrong think built the space shuttles, government employees? From Wikipedia:

                The prime contractor for the program was North American Aviation (later Rockwell International, now Boeing), the same company responsible for building the Apollo Command/Service Module. The contractor for the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters was Morton Thiokol (now part of Alliant Techsystems), for the external tank, Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin), and for the Space shuttle Main Engines, Rocketdyne (

                • different set up. those programs were non-for profit to use the lack of a better term. the arrangement was not made to seek a profit but to facilitate a goal.

                  in this instance though you have a for profit company being in complete charge of the design and construction of the vehicle and the u.s. government is merely a paying passenger like everyone else. with a profit motive there is the motivation to increase the profit margin, with such a motivation they start cutting corners. another poster compared this

              • Re:Only 4 images? (Score:5, Informative)

                by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning@netzero. n e t> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @02:06PM (#39416127) Homepage Journal

                Sure, the next time you go flying on Delta Airlines, tell me how their safety record is and how they keep killing passengers on every flight they make (or even every once in awhile). While no doubt there are some slackers in the airline industry, there aren't that many.... they simply wouldn't be flying.

                Also note that the FAA has jurisdiction over the flying of spacecraft too... from the Office of Commercial Space Transportation. While they are admittedly taking reference information from NASA in terms of human spaceflight experience and safety guidelines, ultimately that vehicle can't fly without FAA approval and even a flight worthiness certificate. Since the Dragon spacecraft is also docking on the ISS, SpaceX also needs to meet NASA standards, as well as JAXA, and Roscosmos standards too! If any one of them says "No", it can't dock up there (or rather be "bearthed" to the ISS as the remote manipulator arm attaches it to the ISS).

                Your assertion that the first flight is going to end up with everybody dying is not only trolling, but it should be noted that SpaceX has already flown the spacecraft too... although that flight was unmanned as will be the next several flights as well. It will be on about flight six before any crew is even suggested to go up, where any really risky issues should have been resolved. SpaceX also has some full-time astronauts who are involved with the flight safety protocols who also wouldn't mind being among the first of those going up.... do you think those astronauts are going to risk their own necks on something that doesn't work?

                Where SpaceX is saving money is both on the procurement costs and construction of the vehicle, because they don't need to send everything out for a GSA competitive bid nor do they have some congressmen poking them in the side to move some of their production to multiple congressional districts to ensure "their district" gets some more pork. On top of that, SpaceX has done an amazing job of streamlining the production process of building spacecraft by moving almost all of the part production in house and even in the same factory. As was said in the 60 Minutes piece, raw metal comes in one door and spacecraft come out the other. That doesn't happen for other spacecraft by the major builders for many of the reason I mention above and others as well.

                The Dragon isn't being build with a cost-plus contract in part because SpaceX doesn't need to. There may be valid reasons to offer such a contract, but putting people into space has long been a solved engineering problem where it is possible to even understand the financial risks of putting people into space. That may not have been possible 50 years ago, but it is today.

                Besides, it is in the interest of SpaceX to keep its passengers alive as killing off customers is bad for the bottom line. Elon Musk isn't that stupid.

              • by JWW ( 79176 )

                The risk to SpaceX of a failure in a Dragon capsule with a crew aboard has huge consequences. Notably the loss of all future NASA contracts for sending people into space.

                Dragon has to be safe, or they won't use it. This cost cutting excuse is just that, and excuse.

                Also, they will have to send quite a few Dragon cargo missions to the space station before they'll even get the chance at a manned mission.

                I'll be very surprised if their first manned launch ends with the loss of the whole crew.

              • It would be more probable that the mission is a success because if this means millions more dollars for the business the president/CEO will throw everything he has at the project to ensure its success. Now if we want to debate morals and ethics of the owners and "bean counters" of these companies that is a whole other side of the coin. But more than likely for company image and reputation with the chances of substantial profit gain they probably won't be cutting any corners.
              • by turgid ( 580780 )

                as Neil Armstrong pointed out to congress, they value money over safety. and because of that, something is going to fail, and there won't be a backup because backup's cost money.

                So how do you explain the space shuttle? Money in spite of safety?

                NASA needs to be freed-up from doing the mundane and reinventing the wheel. NASA needs to be free to push the envelope. Putting astronauts into LEO is now mundane.

              • ...Spoken like somebody who clearly has no idea what's going on.

                All American space vehicles were built by private companies with specifications provided by NASA. The commercial vehicles are still being reviewed by NASA for flight worthiness (hence the technical review in TFA). How can you say they have a financial interest to cut corners and ignore the obvious financial interest to succeed? Face it, NASA has had some pretty astronomical failures in its time, and what backups were available in those situa
      • We get more pictures when they get more funding. It's obviously very incomplete as it is. Just look: No cupholders! What kind of American is going to go into space without a place to put their 64oz truck stop mug of delicious fountain beverage?
        • Just one question: Where's the bathroom? If I'm having 64oz of my favorite delicious fountain beverage, I'm gonna need to pee...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Google Image Search "spacex dragon."

    • Unfortunately I think it's the legal department fault. If you ask the SpaceX photographers, they will tell you how much footage and wonderful pictures they take; but the legal department only allows a tiny faction of that to be published. Take the video they released several weeks ago about the SuperDraco engines: they shoot multiple angles full HD video, but the legal had them crop and cut so that none of the equipment could be seen at all, making it quite lame. I guess it has to do with the fact SpaceX de
      • by Blackjax ( 98754 )
        You are probably right, but in addition to that, I think there are also ITAR issues []. So even stuff they might be willing to share otherwise, they might be reluctant to show just to avoid the possibility of objections from the government.
    • There have been interior shots online for ages. There's even an interactive panorama shot [] of the cargo variant of the dragon.
    • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )

      This 60 Minutes piece on SpaceX [] from last weekend shows videos of Dragon capsules under construction at 4:50, video of the exterior of the capsule they returned from orbit at 10:08, and video of the interior at 10:50.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:22AM (#39412997)
    Made it sound [] like they were making good progress on both the commercial cargo and manned launch fronts. Even Obama has visited their facilities.
  • I saw that 60 Minutes piece about SpaceX recently. The thing that struck me was Neil Armstrong's (yes, still alive) testimony before Congress, saying how unsafe commercial manned launches would be.
    I guess he's just doing his blind loyalty thing for NASA, but come on. 3 astronauts killed in a pure oxygen atmosphere? 2 shuttles and crew lost spectacularly?
    • by localman57 ( 1340533 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:39AM (#39413197)
      As much admiration as I have for these guys, sometimes I get tired of hearing them talk, only because of their lack of perspective. I heard a talk from an SR-71 pilot a while ago, lamenting the end of that program, and how wonderful it was, and how special it is to have it so that people can do such things, and how we should still be doing it. And I do think it's neat, and had a place in the world when it was created. It was a technological wonder that doubtless caused research that lead to a lot of other mass benefits.

      But that's not my point. I think some of these guys see the stuff as worthwhile just for its own sake, and lose the fact that millions of people pay billions of dollars so that scores of pilots can fly really fast. And they lose the wonder of the advances made in the everyday world, for the everyday person.

      Yesterday, I downloaded an app, for free, to my Android phone. It used satellites and radios to track me a course to ride on my bike superimposed on images sent from a server across the continent. That's fucking amazing. And everyone can do it.

      I wonder sometimes if part of the opposition to this sort of space exploration is the fact that, some day, space travel may just not be that special. And they'll lose the romanticism of it.
      • by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning@netzero. n e t> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:11AM (#39413577) Homepage Journal

        While I will be the first to say that the congressional testimony of Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernen about commercial spaceflight was more shilling for the traditional launcher builders (Lock-Mart, Boeing, ATK) than about any real concerns, there is a legitimate issue at hand in terms of moving to commercial services. There are examples of commercial outsourcing for government services that fall flat on their face (Blackwater Security... to give an example) where it does work better if they are government employees doing the job.

        On the other hand, these same guys shilling for the SLS vehicle are also dissing well established vehicles like the Delta IV and Atlas V, suggesting those vehicles are so unreliable that shipping multi-billion dollar satellites into orbit isn't proof that they can also ship people into orbit too.

        I don't think the issue at hand is that spaceflight should be special, but that these two former astronauts simply don't accept the possibility that some of these new companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin have the right motivations to be able to provide a safe and effective way to get into space. There is also the distinct possibility that these younger companies simply don't know enough about spacecraft engineering to be able to compete against the traditional companies either. There are examples of some of these companies having to "relearn" lessons from the past by blowing up rockets or other mistakes which caused a mission failure that the more traditional companies wouldn't have done, so the concern that perhaps what these young upstarts are doing could in the long run cost more is legitimate.

        The problem with this line of thought is that it is presuming that the federal government is going to be footing the tab for failures by private companies. Instead, what you actually do see is that private commercial spaceflight developers are risking their own money (or the money of their investors) and when they make too many mistakes, the companies simply go bankrupt. Organizations like Benson Aerospace, Kistler, or "Space Services, Inc. of America" have tried in the past to build rockets and have failed to do so. Indeed there is a big list of failed companies. On the bright side, there seem to be several companies who have learned the lessons from the past and are being successful today in spite of those past failures of others.

    • by glop ( 181086 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:42AM (#39413237)

      I was also very impressed by that part of 60 Minutes.
      It was striking how Elon Musk (the SpaceX boss) looked on the verge of crying. Apparently seeing Neil Armstrong side against his endeavors was tough to take.

      For me, the astronauts siding against SpaceX are defending what they think is the most reliable and proven way to go to space. Their interpretation could be the following:
      - Nasa has had success and will have more success with enough funding
      - SpaceX is unproven and might be unable to ever achieve what NASA could do
      - SpaceX threatens NASA funding by its very existence (Politicians can think "why give NASA billions now if I can wait a couple years and there is a chance SpaceX will do the same for hundreds of millions?")

      Let's hope SpaceX or their competitors succeed, otherwise we are going to stay grounded as the US government is not prepared to invest in space conquest.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The early astronauts were heros, selected as the best of the best, exploring space for the first time and fighting the cold war. They were symbols of national pride. Anyone that hasn't seen "The Right Stuff" really should see it, because this comes through loud and clear.

        Commercial spaceflight is about making space accessible, inexpensive, on a schedule, and humdrum. Of course they hate it. It takes the bloom off their rose.

    • by paiute ( 550198 )

      I guess he's just doing his blind loyalty thing for NASA, but come on. 3 astronauts killed in a pure oxygen atmosphere? 2 shuttles and crew lost spectacularly?

      And that was when money was no problem. Imagine if NASA had been trying to get to the moon in the economic environment of ValuJet.

      • That's the wrong analogy, though. NASA is more like the Wright Brothers, or Charles Lindberg. ValuJet is exactly what we're shooting for. Making space travel a commodity. Frankly, even a reliabilty record with a failure rate two orders of magnitude worse than ValueJet's will make SpaceX phenominally successful, and drastically safer than the space shuttle.
    • The government tends to get Over Cautious on Loss of life mostly because bad press reflects everyone so badly. Yes Commercial organizations will be a little more lax on safety at first however they will be able to innovate faster... In the long run making a far safer and better methods of getting into space.
      NASA Needs to be super careful every time they do something... Sometimes too much that real mistakes happen, because they spend too much time looking at X and not enough time looking at Y.
      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        Yes Commercial organizations will be a little more lax on safety at first however they will be able to innovate faster... In the long run making a far safer and better methods of getting into space.

        You think a commercial organization can get away with selling flights on a spacecraft that kills its crew more than one time in sixty?

        • Think of the early sailing voyages... How many ships were loss at sea... When we are exploring a new area unfortunately people will die. There are too many factors to consider when every flight is new.
          • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

            Think of the early sailing voyages... How many ships were loss at sea... When we are exploring a new area unfortunately people will die.

            So you do think that a commercial organization can get away with killing its customers one time in sixty?

    • Think about this: which would you rather fly, a government owned airline or Southwest?
    • If Armstrong's testimony is the one I saw on C-Span about two years ago, he was also with Gene Cernan (Apollo 17 Commander) and Norm Augustine (former CEO of Lockheed Martin). Augustine was also head of the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee which was formed in 2009 for the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Both Armstrong's and Cernan's testimony came off as fairly uninformed and mostly saying how great it is to have a space program. Augustine came off as the informed one i

  • I am not grammer nazi, but use of "live" was always an annoyance to me, especially when with real. It is like we are are a bunch of 10 years old and talking about meeting a real live basketball player. Or even worse reading ads about live psychics. I often wanted to start a firm that featured dead psychics. I mean wouldn't that be better? They are in the after life and communicate with the living over specially interfaced phones. That my idea, I will sue anyone who uses it. Then of course there is the
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not sure if you're serious but I'll bite anyway. The alternative to "Live" in this case is not dead but "recorded" or "simulated". An actor in the role of an astronaut as opposed to an accomplished professional astronaut. A less salacious version of your other example would be "Live theater" as opposed to a movie.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The seats, particularly the top 2 in the middle, look really close together. In jumpsuits or other normal clothes this wouldn't be a problem as in the photo, but I'm not seeing how two astronauts wearing an ACES, Sokol or some private sector pressure suit could sit side by side in the top seats without one of them placing his arm on top of the the guy beside him. The Soviets already tried the idea of suitless ascent/re-entry so they could fit 3 seats instead of 2 and it killed Soyuz 11's crew - even with go

    • If the worst part of the design, is that an astronaut has to rest their arm on another astronaut's body, its a pretty good design.

    • ...astronauts wearing an ACES, Sokol or some private sector pressure suit...

      I sort of hope they use Sokol suits, or something with compatible valves, making it easier for astronauts to go up in one type of space craft and, if necessary, return in a different one. Of course, the seat liners would also have to be compatible with the ones used in Soyuz, but it'd be nice to be able to switch crafts without having to send up a second pressure suite and seat liner, like we did when we had astronauts switching between the shuttle and a Soyuz mid flight.

  • I have it down for April 27th, unless it's been changed.

    • by Teancum ( 67324 )

      SpaceX is being very cautious with this particular flight. The largest problems might come from scheduling conflicts with other launchers though, including D.O.D. payloads from the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Considering the schedule slip so far, it wouldn't surprise me that this flight gets pushed into May or even June, and I don't think Elon Musk is going to have "go fever" in order to simply get this to launch. He is taking enough of a risk by combining the first two of the original tes

  • The local media here in central Florida is already hyping this up as a tourist attraction comparable to a Shuttle launch. Probably wishful thinking, but anything is better than nothing.
  • "The Dragon's scheduled late March/early April test flight to the ISS will be unmanned"

    Considering SpaceX's record of launch failures, I hope they stick to unmanned flights for many years to come. Otherwise, the Dragon -- named after a mythical man-eating creature that killed it's prey with it's flames could prove to be a very suitable name.

    • Look at the sequence of the failures: First 3 failures with all the ones after those being successful. This means that they learned the appropriate lessons from the early failures.

      While the small number of flights is still too low to make me confident in their safety, I wouldn't say the early failures are a particular cause for concern. Its not like Orbital Sciences where the most recent launches have dumped their payloads in the ocean.

    • Considering NASA's record of launch failures (in the 1960's), I hope they stick with unmanned flights for many years to come. God forbid they try something crazy like putting a man into orbit using one of these things. All this "put a man on the moon before this decade is out" talk is a bunch of hooey.

      The above sarcasm was brought to you by Intelligent Thinking Processes. Nobody starts out in the space business with perfect success on day one. NASA's failure record early in the space race was so awful i

  • Here's the 60 Minutes piece that everybody's mentioning but not linking to: []

    The seven-crew version of Dragon can be seen briefly in it. I believe it was the scene where Garrett Reisman was getting out of it. In a side note, it's too bad there wasn't more of Garrett, he's a real card.

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