SpaceX is already leading the charge in commercialized spaceflight with a packed schedule of launches and partnerships with countless space agencies and private companies, but its deal with NASA is it’s most important. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited SpaceX’s hangar in Cape Canaveral, for an exclusive first look at the space company’s first completed Dragon 2 class spacecraft.
Not only did Vice President Mike Pence visit the company’s processing hangar at Launch Pad 39A last week, but the company also released new photos of the spacecraft and its Falcon 9 rocket. The photos contain some interesting details. Notably, the standalone photo of Dragon and its “trunk” is shown in its on-orbit configuration, and that it is covered in solar panels.
Incredible opportunity to see @SpaceX‘s Dragon 2 Capsule – an important part of the future of American human space exploration as we aim to return American astronauts to space on U.S. rockets from U.S. soil! pic.twitter.com/Pk5lkpOFEX
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) 18 december 2018
The solar panels are formed to match the shape of the ship itself, meaning that the spacecraft won’t have to deploy and external solar array to gather sunlight.
“The Cargo Dragon’s deployable solar arrays have been eliminated to reduce the number of mechanisms on the vehicle and further increase reliability,”
– SpaceX’s then-director of crew operations, Garrett Reisman, explained before Congress.
At present, SpaceX is forecasting an early 2019 test launch of the Crew Dragon capsule. With SpaceX holding a multibillion-dollar NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS using Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9. Boeing has also signed such a deal and will fulfill it using United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets and a capsule called the CST-100 Starliner. Boeing’s first uncrewed demonstration flight to the ISS is currently scheduled for March 2019.