Dragon (spaceship)

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SpaceX Dragon 16 (46205223352) .jpg
A Dragon 1
Type: Spaceship
Design country:

United StatesUnited States United States



Dragon is a spaceship from the US company SpaceX that is launched with the Falcon 9 rocket. The first version of the Dragon capsule (Dragon 1 or Dragon V1) was only suitable for transporting cargo . It was in use from December 2010 to April 2020. The successor model Dragon 2 will also be able to carry up to four people to the International Space Station (ISS). In the pressurized part of the capsule, 10 cubic meters of volume are available for a payload of more than 3000 kg. During reentry and splashdown a come ablative heat shield and parachutes used.

Dragon 1


The Dragon-1 capsule is 5.3 m high and has a maximum diameter of 3.7 m. Including payload and fuel, it weighed up to eight tons. At take-off, the tip was covered with a cap, behind which the coupling adapter for the ISS was located. This was followed by the 4.2 t heavy and 3.1 m high pressure cabin for payloads. Integrated into the capsule were 18 engines and tanks with 1290 kg of fuel . The fuel was sufficient for the approach and coupling to the ISS as well as the decoupling and deceleration for re-entry. An additional 14 m³ large hollow cylinder ( “trunk” ) open at the rear was attached to the capsule as storage space for larger loads; this was not under pressure. Solar panels and heat exchangers were attached to the additional element .

With the first version of the Falcon 9 launcher, Dragon was able to transport around 2.5 t of payload to the ISS. The first COTS contract provided for a total of 20 t in 12 flights, that would have been around 1.7 t per flight. With later, more powerful versions of the Falcon 9 launcher (from Falcon 9 Block 3) the maximum payload was increased to around 6 t per flight.

Spaceship progress Space Shuttle with MPLM ATV HTV
Dragon 1
Dragon 2
Cygnus Tianzhou Dream chaser
Starting capacity 2.2-2.4 t 9 t 7.7 t 6.0 t
5.8 t
6.0 t 2.0 t (2013)
3.5 t (2015)
3.75 t (2019)
6.5 t 5.5 t
Landing capacity 150 kg (with VBK-Raduga ) 9 t - 20 kg (from HTV-7) 3.0 t - - 1.75 t
fuel transfer
Transport of ISPR,
transport of external loads,
station construction,
fuel transfer
Transportation of ISPR ,
transportation of external loads
Transportation of ISPR,
transportation of external loads
Transport of ISPR Fuel transfer
carrier Soyuz STS Ariane 5 H-2B
Falcon 9 Antares / Atlas 5 Long March 7 Vulcan
Start-up costs
(rough information)
$ 65 million $ 450 million $ 600 million HTV: $ 300-320 million $ 150/230 million

(Dragon 1/2)

$ 260/220 million (Cygnus 2/3)
Manufacturer RKK Energija Alenia Spazio (MPLM) Airbus Defense and Space Mitsubishi Electric SpaceX Orbital Sciences CAST Sierra Nevada
Period of use since 1978 2001-2011 2008-2015 2009–2020
from 2022
from 2020
since 2014 since 2017 from 2021

italic = planned

Mission List

No. mission Start date ( UTC ) Flight duration Launcher Launch site annotation
1. NASA- COTS 1 December 8, 2010, 3:43 pm 03:19 h Falcon 9 CCAFS SLC-40 success
2. NASA- COTS 2 May 22, 2012, 7:44 am 9 d 07:58 h Falcon 9 CCAFS SLC-40 success
3. SpaceX CRS-1 October 8, 2012, 12:34 am 21 d 18:48 h Falcon 9 CCAFS SLC-40 success
4th SpaceX CRS-2 March 1, 2013, 3:10 p.m. 24 d 18:25 h Falcon 9 CCAFS SLC-40 success
5. SpaceX CRS-3 April 18, 2014, 7:25 pm 29 d 23:40 h Falcon 9 v1.1 CCAFS SLC-40 success
6th SpaceX CRS-4 September 21, 2014, 5:52 am 34 d 13:46 h Falcon 9 v1.1 CCAFS SLC-40 success
7th SpaceX CRS-5 January 10, 2015, 9:47 am 31 d 10:31 h Falcon 9 v1.1 CCAFS SLC-40 success
8th. SpaceX CRS-6 April 14, 2015, 8:10 pm 36 d 21:35 h Falcon 9 v1.1 CCAFS SLC-40 success
9. SpaceX CRS-7 June 28, 2015, 2:21 pm 2 min 19 s Falcon 9 v1.1 CCAFS SLC-40 Failure (loss of capsule after top rocket burst)
10. SpaceX CRS-8 April 8, 2016, 8:43 pm 32 d 22:12 h Falcon 9 v1.2 CCAFS SLC-40 success
11. SpaceX CRS-9 July 18, 2016, 4:45 am 39 d 11:03 h Falcon 9 v1.2 CCAFS SLC-40 success
12. SpaceX CRS-10 February 19, 2017, 2:39 pm 28 d 00:07 h Falcon 9 v1.2 KSC LC-39A success
13. SpaceX CRS-11 June 3, 2017, 9:07 pm 29 d 15:04 h Falcon 9 v1.2 KSC LC-39A Achievement
First reuse of a Dragon
14th SpaceX CRS-12 August 14, 2017, 4:31 pm 33 d 21:43 h Falcon 9 v1.2 KSC LC-39A success
15th SpaceX CRS-13 December 15, 2017, 3:36 pm 28 d 16: ?? H Falcon 9 v1.2 CCAFS SLC-40 success
16. SpaceX CRS-14 April 2, 2018, 8:30 p.m. 32 d 22:32 h Falcon 9 v1.2 CCAFS SLC-40 success
17th SpaceX CRS-15 June 29, 2018, 9:42 am 35 d 12:35 h Falcon 9 v1.2 CCAFS SLC-40 success
18th SpaceX CRS-16 December 5, 2018, 6:16 pm 39 d 10:54 h Falcon 9 v1.2 CCAFS SLC-40 success
19th SpaceX CRS-17 May 4, 2019, 6:48 am 30 d 14: ?? H Falcon 9 v1.2 CCAFS SLC-40 success
20th SpaceX CRS-18 25 July 2019, 22:02 33 d 00: ?? H Falcon 9 v1.2 CCAFS SLC-40 Success
First third party use of a Dragon
21st SpaceX CRS-19 December 5, 2019, 5:29 pm 32 d 22: ?? H Falcon 9 v1.2 CCAFS SLC-40 success
22nd SpaceX CRS-20 March 7, 2020, 4:50 am 31 d 14:00 h Falcon 9 v1.2 CCAFS SLC-40 success

COTS program

The Dragon was first extensively tested as part of NASA's COTS ( Commercial Orbital Transportation Services ) program . Various capabilities of the spaceship and the launcher were demonstrated (including takeoff, automatic navigation, docking with the ISS, reentry, and landing). Two demonstration flights were carried out for this purpose.


Dragon capsule COTS-1 after splashdown

Mission 1 consisted of the launch of the Falcon 9 with Dragon, the separation from the second stage of the Falcon 9, the receipt of commands and their processing in orbit and maneuver tests. This flight took place on December 8, 2010. The Falcon 9 with the Dragon took off from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 40 at 15:43 UTC . After two orbits around the earth and a mission duration of 3 hours and 19 minutes, the reentry took place at 19:02 UTC and, west of Mexico, the successful splashdown in the Pacific . Then the rescue took place. The mission has been rated a success by SpaceX and NASA.

A wheel of cheese was on board as the payload, referring to a sketch by Monty-Python .


The Dragon capsule COTS-2 is captured by the ISS's robotic arm.

The start of the second mission, which included a docking maneuver at the International Space Station, was initially planned for May 19, 2012. However, the start was aborted shortly after the ignition of the first stage due to excessive combustion chamber pressure in engine 5, the middle of the nine engines. On May 22, 2012 at 07:44 UTC, the second attempt of the Falcon 9 took place. After a series of tests and complicated maneuvers, the dragon capsule came within 10 meters of the ISS on the fourth day of the mission. She was then captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm of the space station and guided to a free docking point on the US section of the ISS. This process was controlled from board the ISS by the astronauts Don Pettit and André Kuipers . The spacecraft transported 460 kg of cargo (520 kg with transport packaging) to the ISS and was loaded with over 600 kg of waste and equipment that was no longer required for the return flight. In addition, on behalf of the company Celestis , which specializes in space burials, 308 ash capsules were transported into space with the second stage rocket. On May 31, 2012, the dragon capsule was separated from the space station again. After the re-entry into the earth's atmosphere , the watering off the coast of Lower California took place at 15:42 UTC .

CRS program

Position lights

As part of the CRS program , SpaceX was commissioned by NASA in 2008 to carry out twelve Dragon flights to supply the ISS for 1.6 billion US dollars. After the spacecraft was certified in the COTS program, the first flight (CRS-1) started on October 8, 2012. According to SpaceX, one of the nine engines of the first rocket stage failed shortly after take-off . However, the missile was able to compensate for the failure and reach orbit. The approach to the space station and docking therefore went as planned. Four supply missions had been successfully completed by the end of 2014. The spaceship also brought scientific material and equipment that was no longer needed back to earth.

The US space company Orbital Sciences Corporation , now Orbital ATK , is also performing supply flights to the ISS with the Cygnus space capsule and the Antares launcher as part of the CRS program.

In March 2015 it was announced that NASA had commissioned three additional transport flights with Dragon capsules for 2017. SpaceX also competed for additional supply missions on behalf of NASA.

On June 28, 2015, a Dragon spaceship was lost on flight CRS-7. The launcher broke in midair after takeoff.

On January 14, 2016, NASA announced further orders as part of the Commercial Resupply Services 2 program. SpaceX received an order for at least six more flights for the period 2019 to 2024.

On June 3, 2017, he took off flight CRS. It was the first time that a Dragon spacecraft was reused. The space capsule used in CRS-11 was already in space on flight CRS-4 in September 2014. The first stage of the Falcon-9 launcher landed successfully at LZ-1 in Cape Canaveral.

At the end of July 2017, it was announced that SpaceX would use a new first-generation Dragon capsule for the last time at the launch of CRS-12. After that there were only reused ones.

The last time a Dragon 1 was launched was on March 7, 2020 and landed in the Pacific a month later. All further SpaceX supply flights to the ISS are to take place with the successor model Cargo Dragon 2 .

Dragon 2 as a manned spaceship (Crew Dragon)

Interior of the Dragon 2

As part of the CCDev program (Commercial Crew Development), NASA, which can no longer carry out its own manned crew exchange missions without the space shuttles, is promoting the further development of the Dragon into a manned spacecraft. The manned Dragon capsule is intended to relieve the Soyuz capsules during the crew transport and possibly also fly to future private space stations. By June 2012, the design studies of the modified spaceship and a possible schedule for a manned mission had been completed and submitted to NASA. On May 29, 2014, the version for manned flights Dragon V2 was unveiled. The first unmanned flight was conducted on March 2, 2019 with the SpX-DM1 mission . The first manned flight, the SpX-DM2, took place on May 30, 2020 .

Both the launcher and the spaceship were designed from the start for the transport of people. For this reason, the number of changes to a manned spaceship should be comparatively low.

Unlike the Apollo spacecraft, the rescue system during the launch phase does not consist of an escape tower , but is integrated into the spacecraft. For this purpose, several powerful liquid engines with hypergolic propellants were attached to the side of the capsule , which can quickly move the capsule away from the launch vehicle in the event of danger. These engines were originally intended to be used in conjunction with extendable landing legs for landing on land, parachutes would only have been available for safety. The plans for a landing with the integrated rocket engines, however, were dropped again. The risks of landing legs protruding from the heat shield were found to be too great.

Dragon XL

The Dragon XL is a planned, enlarged variant of the cargo spacecraft Cargo Dragon 2 . It should supply the lunar space station Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway with up to five tons of cargo per flight at the earliest from the mid-2020s . The Falcon Heavy is to be used as a launch vehicle .

Red Dragon

Red Dragon landing on Mars (artist's impression)

Red Dragon was a concept for an unmanned Mars mission based on a modified Dragon capsule and the Falcon Heavy as a launch rocket. The idea was to land the capsule with a payload of one ton on the surface of Mars without the need for parachutes. This would make it possible for the first time to reach higher regions of Mars, where landing with parachutes is impossible due to the thin atmosphere.

It was expected that in 2013 and 2015 a sample-return mission on the basis of this concept for the program Discovery of NASA should be proposed, but it was not submitted applications. NASA is currently not planning a sample return mission, even if the planned Mars 2020 rover is supposed to collect samples for a return to Earth in the early 2020s.

Web links

Commons : Dragon (spaceship)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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