— Specifications —

Basics

Country: United States
Operator: SpaceX
Max. cargo: 6,000 kg
Return payload: 3,000 kg
Reusable: Yes
Launch site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Launch vehicle: Falcon 9 FT
Design life: Up to 2 years
Status: Active

Quick facts

First flight: Dragon C1, Dec. 8, 2010
Number flown: 11 as of Nov. 2016
Failures: 1 - CRS-7, June 28, 2015
Stations serviced: The International Space Station
Name meaning: Dragon was named after the 1963 song "Puff, the Magic Dragon" by American folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, as a jab to critics who felt SpaceX's spaceflight projects were impossible

Versions

CRS: 2010-Present
DragonLab: After 2018

 
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches the CRS-8 Dragon cargo ship toward the International Space Station. Photo Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches the CRS-8 Dragon cargo ship toward the International Space Station. Photo Credit: SpaceX


— Sections —

Capsule

CargoDragon_CapsuleOnly_Space_300dpi.png

Width: 3.7 m
Height: 2.9 m
Cargo volume: 10 m³
Max. Cargo:  3,000 kg


The capsule, which is sometimes referred to as the pressurized section, carries food, experiments and other equipment for the crew inside the International Space Station.

Dragon is unique in the fact that it is the only visiting vehicle currently flying that can bring a substantial amount of equipment back to Earth.

This gumdrop-shaped spacecraft has a common berthing mechanism at the top for connecting to the ISS. During launch, a nose cone covers this hatch during ascent on the Falcon 9 rocket and is jettisoned a few minutes after lifting off the pad.

In addition to the pressure vessel, the capsule also has 12 to 18 Draco thrusters that help maneuver the spacecraft as well as help change its orbital altitude. At the end of the mission, these thrusters are used for the deorbit burn.

The Draco thrusters use Nitrogen Tetroxide and Monomethyl-hydrazine as oxidizer and fuel respectively. A total of 1,290 kilograms of propellant is stored onboard tanks inside the capsule's sidewall.

Dragon's reaction control system provides dual-redundancy in all directions, meaning any two Draco thrusters can fail and the mission can continue as planned.

Near the bottom-center of the capsule is a sealed compartment that contains essential equipment for guidance, navigation and control. This GNC bay opens up during the mission to reveal a grapple fixture that the space station's robotic arm can grab onto to capture Dragon in mid-flight and berth it to the outpost.

Finally, at the bottom of the capsule is a proprietary heat shield. PICA-X is the material the SpaceX uses to protect the spacecraft from the nearly 1,600 degree Celsius temperature of reentry. It was dirived from NASA's phenolic impregnated carbon ablator heat shield.

SpaceX's blend is able to be reused multiple times without major degradation. The company claims that no modifications would be required for a reentry from the Moon or Mars.


 

Trunk

CargoDragon_TrunkOnly_NoArrays_300dpi.png

Width: 3.7 m
Height: 2.8 m
Width (w/ solar): 16.5 m
Cargo volume: 14 m³
Max. Cargo: 3,000 kg


While the capsule is reusable, the trunk of the spacecraft is not. After the deorbit burn, it is detached from the capsule to burn up in the atmosphere.

The trunk's most important feature is that of power generation. It sports the dual solar panels on the outside of the structure. These panels are protected during launch by two side-fairings. After being inserted into orbit, they are jettisoned to allow the panels to extend.

The second most important feature of the trunk is to transport unpressurized cargo to the International Space Station. This cargo is attached to the upper bulkhead of the structure just below the capsule's heat shield.

Many different types of cargo can be sent via the trunks 14 cubic meters of volume. The most notable have been a new docking adapter for the outpost as well as an expandable test module.

Whatever cargo the trunk does contain can only be removed by the station's Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, more commonly called Dextre. It itself is attached to the station's 17.6-meter long Canadarm2.