SpaceX to Unveil New Spacecraft

SuperDraco Firing

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the start-up rocket-maker known as SpaceX and headed by billionaire Elon Musk, plans to unveil a new spacecraft today at its California headquarters.

The new craft, called Dragon V2, complete with its new thruster, called SuperDraco, is designed to carry seven astronauts. The propulsion system is designed to separate the module from the rocket if necessary and land the crew safety on the ground — “on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy,” according to a press release.

Unlike earlier generations of launch escape systems that jettisoned after launch, the company’s version is built into the spacecraft itself.

Eight SuperDraco thrusters capable of producing a combined 120,000 pounds of axial thrust are built into the walls of the module. The engine chamber is made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using a process called direct metal laser sintering, a form of 3-D printing.

“Through 3-D printing, robust and high-performing engine parts can be created at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional manufacturing methods,” Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said in the release. “SpaceX is pushing the boundaries of what additive manufacturing can do in the 21st century, ultimately making our vehicles more efficient, reliable and robust than ever before.”

The company plans to stream live video of the ceremony beginning 7 p.m. Pacific time. It also released video of the thruster firing as part of qualification testing, which took place over the past month at its rocket facility in McGregor, Texas.

SpaceX has a contract with NASA to resupply the International Space Station and is seeking certification to eventually fly astronauts to the orbital outpost — a prospect that may not happen until 2017 due in part to federal budget cuts.

The company is also trying to break into the military launch market and has sued the Air Force to open more missions to competition.

(Story was updated to clarify that the unveiling ceremony was for the spacecraft, not just the engine.)

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • JamalTheBanker

    I freakin love SpaceX.

  • Dfens

    Hey, that’s not right. They should be resting on their laurels from the work they did in the 1970’s or going to some communist country that openly seeks to dominate or oppress this country for rocket engines.

  • Ben

    They’re also unveiling their human-capable Dragon V2 tonight:

  • buckwheat

    The best dude

  • hibeam

    Someday soon someone will figure out how to make money going into space to grow super pure silicon crystals or to make drugs that can’t be processed in 1g or just for the pure fun of it… And then costs will plummet and it will all take off like a friggin rocket (no pun intended). Go SpaceX!

  • Gwhite

    While I love Space X and how they push the boundaries, I cant help but think what will happen when Reaction Engines Skylon Spaceplane and its SABRE engine start flying. Now that system is truly revolutionary and gives you Sci Fi like spaceflight. The USAF is now looking into the tech and working with Reaction Engines and the ESA approved it as a valid design.

  • hibeam

    Someday we will reach a tipping point where no one things in terms of hauling stuff up. There is plenty of stuff ‘up’ there already. And lots of solar power nearby.

  • TonyC.

    Pushing the boundaries of technology is what NASA was supposed to be doing. Now the commercial world will push it to the limit. Maybe SpaceX will develop an orbiting garbage collection craft to make spaceflight safer. So much junk is orbiting the Earth that it’s bound to damage spacecraft in a commercial operation environment.

  • Hunter76

    Not true, for whatever it matters. The SpaceX press center is at Their most recent release is “SpaceX Completes Qualification Testing of SuperDraco Thruster”.

    • Derek Howe

      My comment was true, why do you think the headline is now changed, and the administrator deleted my post…

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