After making history on May 25th, as the world’s first privately held company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS), Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) is ready to do it again.
The company has announced a manned version of its Dragon space capsule is in the works, and will be ready to send humans in space exploration trips by 2017. The announcement is a win for the future of privately-funded space exploration projects.
SpaceX, the space transport company headquartered in Hawthorne, California, and founded in 2002 by former PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk, has developed the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles. The company also developed the aforementioned Dragon spacecraft, which made the late May journey to the ISS.
NASA officials announced the upcoming manned Dragon capsule last Thursday, as the result of a June 14 review during which SpaceX officials gave NASA details about every phase of the upcoming spacecraft.
Some of the updates include modifying Dragon’s launch pad for enhanced support, as well as enhancing the capsule's docking capabilities, living arrangements, weight and power requirements. The manned Dragon capsule is designed to carry seven astronauts to and from space – as announced by SpaceX CEO and chief designer Elon Musk.
SpaceX first attempted the launch of its unmanned Dragon capsule on May 18, but the mission had to be aborted due to technical difficulties. That is why company officials explained to NASA how the new manned Dragon capsule’s launch abort system (known as SuperDraco) would be improved to optimally perform, if an emergency occurred shortly after liftoff.
The upcoming mission represents a win for privately funded space exploration trips, a rising industry that could help the American economy in the future by promoting space exploration. Musk said SpaceX is one of the first companies to receive funding over the last two years from NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CPP) – a program created to spur the development of private American spacecrafts capable of carrying astronauts and potential tourists to the ISS.