SpaceX to unveil Dragon V2 ‘space taxi’

29 May 2014

The SuperDraco engine during testing.

The world’s largest commercial space transportation company, SpaceX, is to launch its latest version of its Dragon spacecraft which its predecessor had been referred to as the ‘space taxi’.

The Dragon V2 spacecraft is un-manned and will improve on the first Dragon’s ability to bring large payloads surrounding the Earth – and potentially beyond – at a cost which in most cases is cheaper than the established national agencies, such as America’s own National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, who is also the founder of the electric car maker Tesla, the company has already undertaken a number of missions for NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) including delivering and removing large payloads from the International Space Station (ISS).

Some of the improvements expected in the spacecraft include its new, more powerful SuperDraco engine that fires out an estimated 7,000kg-plus of thrust with the added ability to ‘deep throttle’, meaning greater control over the spacecraft once it is air – and indeed- space-borne.

The engine tiself is actually created through a process known as metal laser sintering, otherwise known as 3D printing whereby they make the engine from a special alloy that is easily modified.

“Through 3D printing, robust and high-performing engine parts can be created at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional manufacturing methods,” said Musk of the engine. “SpaceX is pushing the boundaries of what additive manufacturing can do in the 21st century, ultimately making our vehicles more efficient, reliable and robust than ever before.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic