Dragon is a partially reusable spacecraft developed by the American aerospace company SpaceX. This capsule is capable of carrying 7 astronauts on missions to and from the Earth’s orbit. Moreover, Dragon is the first private spacecraft contracted to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
The capsule launches atop de Falcon 9 rocket, which is also developed by SpaceX. The Dragon capsule has a height of 8.1 meters and is composed of two parts: the trunk and the capsule itself.
- The trunk is a depressurised space for cargo, and half of it is covered by solar panels that provide energy to the capsule during the flight and while it is docked to the ISS. The trunk remains attached to Dragon until shortly before the reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
- The capsule in itself is a pressurised section that makes possible the transportation of people and environmentally sensitive cargo. The capsule is equipped with engines that allow the spacecraft to manoeuvre while in orbit and 8 SuperDraco engines that provide fault-tolerant propulsion for Dragon’s launch escape system.
The objectives of the Dragon capsule
This capsule is designed to carry persons and cargo, such as food, water or scientific machinery to the ISS or beyond. Thanks to this capsule, in 2020, the United States recovered their capacity to fly astronauts to and from the ISS using American vehicles.
Moreover, the Dragon capsule is the only spacecraft currently operational that is capable of returning significant quantities of cargo to the Earth. Until these days, the capsule has effectuated 35 launches, 31 of which have been visits to the ISS.
In order to protect the astronauts, the Dragon capsule has a launch escape system to save the crew’s life in case of an emergency. This system allows separating the capsule from the Falcon 9 in the unlikely event of an emergency.
This is possible thanks to 8 SuperDraco engines, which are capable of propelling the Dragon capsule half a mile (800 meters) away from the launch vehicle in less than 8 seconds.
Reentry to the Earth
As I have previously explained, shortly before the reentry of the spacecraft into the terrestrial atmosphere, the trunk separates from the capsule, and the capsule starts its reentry to the Earth.
The Dragon capsule is equipped with two drogue parachutes to stabilise the spacecraft while it falls to the surface and four more parachutes that further decelerate the capsule before the landing.
In the end of the mission, Dragon splashes down on the Pacific ocean.