DragonLab DataSheet (875 kb)
Dragon is a free-flying, reusable spacecraft developed by SpaceX under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Initiated internally by SpaceX in 2005, the Dragon spacecraft is made up of a pressurized capsule and unpressurized trunk used for Earth to LEO transport of pressurized cargo, unpressurized cargo, and/or crew members.
In May 2012, SpaceX made history when its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial vehicle in history to successfully attach to the International Space Station. Previously only four governments -- the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency -- had achieved this challenging technical feat. SpaceX has now begun regular missions to the Space Station, completing its first official resupply mission in October 2012.
View from the International Space Station of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as the station's robotic arm moves Dragon
into place for attachment to the station. May 25, 2012. Photo: NASA
The Dragon spacecraft is comprised of 3 main elements: the Nosecone, which protects the vessel and the docking adaptor during ascent; the Spacecraft, which houses the crew and/or pressurized cargo as well as the service section containing avionics, the RCS system, parachutes, and other support infrastructure; and the Trunk, which provides for the stowage of unpressurized cargo and will support Dragon’s solar arrays and thermal radiators.
In December 2008, NASA announced the selection of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires. The $1.6 billion contract represents a minimum of 12 flights, with an option to order additional missions for a cumulative total contract value of up to $3.1 billion.
Though designed to address cargo and crew requirements for the ISS, as a free-flying spacecraft Dragon also provides an excellent platform for in-space technology demonstrations and scientific instrument testing. SpaceX is currently manifesting fully commercial, non-ISS Dragon flights under the name “DragonLab”. DragonLab represents an emergent capability for in-space experimentation.
- Fully autonomous rendezvous and docking with manual override capability in crewed configuration
- 6,000 kg (13,228 lbs) payload up-mass to LEO; 3,000 kg (6,614 lbs) payload down-mass
- Payload Volume: 10 m3 (350 ft3) pressurized, 14 m3 (490 ft3) unpressurized
- Dragon is 4.4 meters (14.4 feet) tall and 3.66 meters (12 feet) in diameter.
- The trunk is 2.8 meters (9.2 feet) tall and 3.66 meters (12 feet) wide. With the solar panels fully extended, the vehicle measures 16.5 meters (54 feet) wide.
- Supports up to 7 passengers in Crew configuration
- Eighteen Draco thrusters used for orbital maneuvering and attitude control (providing system redundancy).
- Powered by nitrogen tetroxide / monomethylhydrazine (NTO/MMH) storable propellants
- 90 lbf (400 N) thrust used for on-orbit maneuvering, de-orbit burns, and re-entry attitude
Thermal Protection System
- Dragon has the most powerful heat shield in the world; designed in cooperation with NASA, it is made of a material called PICA-X, a high performance variant on NASA ’s original Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA).
- Backshell protected by SpaceX's Proprietary Ablative Material (SPAM).
- Two solar array wings on trunk (8 panels total) for power.
- Two-fault tolerant avionics system with extensive heritage
Environmental Control System
- Provides a habitable cabin: Air circulation, fire detection and suppression, lights.
- Pressure control, pressure and humidity monitoring.
- Designed for water landing under parachute for ocean recovery
- Designed for lift during reentry for precise landing and low g-forces.
To ensure a rapid transition from cargo to crew capability, the cargo and crew configurations of Dragon are almost identical, with the exception of the crew escape system, the life support system and onboard controls that allow the crew to take over control from the flight computer when needed. This focus on commonality minimizes the design effort and simplifies the human rating process, allowing systems critical to Dragon crew safety and space station safety to be fully tested on unmanned demonstration flights and cargo resupply missions
For cargo launches the inside of the spacecraft is outfitted with a modular cargo rack system designed to accommodate pressurized cargo in standard sizes and form factors. For crewed launches, the interior is outfitted with crew couches, controls with manual override capability and upgraded life-support.
COTS 2 Demonstration Mission:
On May 31, 2012, SpaceX successfully completed the historic mission that made Dragon the first commercial spacecraft to visit the International Space Station. Previously only four governments -- the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency -- had achieved this challenging technical feat.
Below is a brief summary in pictures of the historic mission from liftoff to splashdown:
Liftoff of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle carrying Dragon C2 spacecraft, from the SpaceX launch pad at Cape Canaveral
Air Force Station, Florida, May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX
Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station on May 25, 2012 for grapple and berthing . Photo: NASA
View of Dragon's sensor bay as seen from the space station as the spacecraft approaches. Photo: NASA
View from the Dragon spacecraft’s sensor bay as the door opens to the darkness of space. The door also supports the grapple fixture (Y-shaped structure upper center), which is where the robotic arm aboard the International Space Station grabs on to Dragon for berthing to the station. May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX
View from the International Space Station of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as the station’s robotic arm moves Dragon into place for attachment to the station. May 25, 2012. Photo: NASA
The Dragon spacecraft attached (berthed) to the space station--the first commercial spacecraft in history to achieve this feat. Photo: NASA
European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers inside the Dragon spacecraft. Photo: NASA
The Dragon spacecraft shortly after departure from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA
Dragon spacecraft and two of the three main parachutes shortly after splashdown, May 31, 2012. Courtesy NASA
SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft on the barge after being retrieved from the Pacific Ocean after splashdown, May 31, 2012. Photo: SpaceX