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First Private Spacecraft to the Space Station

Dragon Rocket


Dragon is a free-flying spacecraft designed to deliver both cargo and people to orbiting destinations. Dragon made history in 2012 when it became the first commercial spacecraft in history to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and safely return cargo to Earth, a feat previously achieved only by governments. It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth. Currently Dragon carries cargo to space, but it was designed from the beginning to carry humans. As part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX is now developing the refinements that will enable Dragon to fly crew. The first demonstration flight for this program is targeted for January 2019.


Total Launch Payload Mass
6,000kg13,228 lbs
Total Launch Payload Volume
25m3883 ft3

Pressurized Section

The pressurized section of the spacecraft, also referred to as the capsule, is designed to carry both cargo and humans into space. Towards the base of the capsule but outside the pressurized structure are the Draco thrusters, Dragon's guidance navigation and control (GNC) bay and Dragon’s advanced heat shield.

Spacecraft Payload Volume
11m3388 ft3


Dragon’s trunk supports the spacecraft during ascent to space, carries unpressurized cargo and houses Dragon’s solar arrays. The trunk and solar arrays remain attached to Dragon until shortly before reentry to Earth’s atmosphere, when they are jettisoned.

Trunk Payload Volume
14m3494 ft3
Total Return Payload Mass
3,000kg6,614 lbs
Total Return Payload volume
11m3388 ft3

Fig. 1

Schematic of the available space for payload in the pressurized section.

Fig. 2

Schematic of the available space for payload in the trunk.

Technical Overview

Height With Trunk
7.2m23.6 ft
3.7m12 ft
Sidewall Angle
Orbit Duration
Up to 2 Years

Inside the Spacecraft

The Dragon spacecraft has three configurations to meet a variety of needs: cargo, crew and DragonLab. To ensure a rapid transition from cargo to crew capability, the cargo and crew configurations of Dragon are almost identical. This commonality simplifies the human rating process, allowing systems critical to crew and space station safety to be fully tested on unmanned cargo flights. With DragonLab, essentially the same spacecraft can be used as a platform for in-space technology demonstrations and experiments.


Resupply the Space Station

01Delivery and Return Services

Dragon is the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and currently the only cargo spacecraft flying capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth. Dragon accommodates pressurized cargo in the capsule as well as unpressurized cargo in its trunk.

02Versatile Cargo Racks

The racks are a honeycomb carbon-aluminum construction designed for efficient packing in a zero-gravity environment. They accommodate a variety of standard-size NASA cargo bags as well as freezers for carrying materials such as biological samples.


Taking Humans to Space

01Partnership with NASA

Dragon was designed from the outset to fly humans to space. Under an agreement with NASA, SpaceX is making upgrades to Dragon to allow for crew carrying capability.

02Crew Upgrades

Dragon will be the world’s safest and most reliable crew transport vehicle, with seating for seven, life-support systems, controls with manual capability, and a powered launch escape system.

03First Launch

Upgrades to Dragon are currently in progress. Dragon’s first manned test flight is expected to take place as early as 2018.


A Free-Flying Microgravity Laboratory

01Facilitating Research

DragonLab is a free-flying, unmanned platform designed for research and testing in a microgravity environment independent of the International Space Station.


It can transport payloads, experiments, instruments, and sensors into space and back to Earth on missions ranging from one week to two years.


DragonLab can readily accommodate instrument and sensor testing, space physics and relativity experiments, radiation effects research, and many other microgravity tests.