I’m sure you’ve probably already seen this. But in case you haven’t, I’m looking at pictures of the Dragon version 2 capsule. This is the one that Elon Musk hopes to send astronauts up in sometime in the next couple years.
And in keeping with his focus on reusability, this one has parachutes as a backup. The main way it’s planned to land is by using rocket thrusters. So that it can be sent back up after being refueled. Thus, bringing costs down.
But also, that means it can be used on other planetary bodies for landing and taking off.
Key to making the Dragon V2 cost-effective will be getting a lot of reuse out of it. According to Musk, the V2 is built to withstand 10 flights without any significant refurbishment. After that tenth flight or so, the heat shield would likely have to be replaced. On the V2, that shield is a variant of NASA’s Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator, which SpaceX calls PICA-X 3 (it retains an X because it’s SpaceX’s variant, and a three because it’s the third version of such a shield.) But Musk said he expects that the next versions of PICA-X will last longer than the most current version. “It’s kind of like a brake pad, it does need to be replaced, but eventually we’d like to get up to 100 flights” out of the heat shield before replacement becomes necessary, he said, adding that SpaceX has improved the micrometeorite shielding on the Dragon V2, as well.
The Dragon V2 will be able to hold seven passengers as well as a ton of pressurized cargo, along with two to three tons of unpressurized cargo.