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SpaceX Dragon V2 Unveiled Tonight

May 29, 2014 11:21 AM EDT
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SpaceX will be unveiling their manned version of the SpaceX Dragon tonight. The Dragon V2 has been designed to transport live human cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS), making it the second craft to taxi men and women to the station since the retirement of NASA's shuttle program in 2011.

The Dragon Version 2 (V2) is a manned rendition of the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsules, which have been delivering supplies to the ISS since 2012. According to reports, the third unmanned Dragon cargo flight launched in April and returned to Earth earlier this month as part of a $1.6 billion contract with NASA, who retired their own shuttle programs - shipping cargo and people - back in 2011.

You can watch the live webcast of the unveiling of the Dragon V2 craft online Thursday, May 29, at 10 PM eastern-standard-time.

Currently, only the Soyuz Russian spacecraft has been taxiing people to and from the ISS in recent years. According to Space.com, the Soyuz is only capable of transporting three people at a time. However, once fully operational, the SpaceX Dragon V2 will be able to taxi up to seven crew members at a time - matching the capacity of NASA's costly space shuttles.

According to the SpaceX website, the Dragon is modeled off a "gumdrop" design, where the pressurized compartment and unpressurized cargo-truck sit atop the private company's flagship rocket, the Falcon 9. Once the Dragon breaches the Earth's atmosphere, it detaches from the rocket to free-float to the ISS. Small thrusters surrounding the craft help guide it until it reaches its destination. Once its cargo is delivered, an automated system guides it to simply "fall" away back to Earth via a parachute system designed to slow its decent onto water.

The manned V2 will do the same thing, making it the first private craft to taxi astronauts to and from the station. SpaceX's founder Elon Musk and NASA have both previously declared that they plan to see a manned Dragon craft reach the ISS by 2017.

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