The shuttle's successors

In 2010 SpaceX became the first privately owned company to send a spacecraft into orbit and recover it, using an uncrewed Dragon capsule. They estimate Dragon can carry seven astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for $20m (£12.5m) a seat. Later this year, Dragon is scheduled to begin a series of 12 cargo missions to the ISS.

Diagram showing details of Dragon

"The company was founded ... to advance the cause of human space flight. That's the whole purpose of our existence"

Garrett Reisman, SpaceX

Dragon

  • 2014 launch date
  • Falcon 9 launch vehicle
  • 7 total crew capacity
  • $75m Nasa funding so far*
  • Sea landings
    with parachutes

The Dragon spacecraft is receiving development grants from Nasa, as part of the commercial crew development programme. Dragon is launched on a Falcon 9 rocket, also built by SpaceX, unlike most of its competitors, which will initially use the Atlas 5. Although current operation calls for a water landing, SpaceX intends to develop a thruster system that would eventually allow Dragon to make a soft touch-down on land.

Graphic

*Total funding given in round two of Nasa's Commercial Crew Development programme (CCDev). SpaceX has also received funding from Nasa under the COTS programme.

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