SpaceX
Crew Dragon

SpaceX’s Reusable Dragon 2 Crew Capsule Is Covered in Solar Panels

Even the side fins appear to be lined with a mosaic of small panels.

Important Visit

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited SpaceX’s hangar in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Tuesday for an exclusive first look at the space company’s first completed Dragon 2 class spacecraft. Luckily, the rest of us got a look as well thanks to new photos.

The visit showcased the Crew Dragon, Canadian Press reports, a passenger variant of the Dragon 2 that was first unveiled in May 2014. It’s designed to ferry up to seven astronauts to space.

Solar Belly

The newly released pictures also gave us a glimpse of what the Dragon 2 will look like once it’s in orbit: solar arrays line the trunk of the capsule in flat, rounded sheets. Even the side fins appear to be lined with a mosaic of small panels.

To get it into space, SpaceX designed a new Block 5 core for its Falcon 9 rocket, which can be seen on the left in the picture below.

The Future of Space Travel

We got a detailed look at the interior of the Dragon 2 back in August when SpaceX invited the media to its headquarters in Hawthorne, California for an up-close look at a life-size model of the spacecraft.

The media got a glimpse of massive, tablet-like screens inside the Crew Dragon model, mounted in front of a row of race-car-like seats.

Navigating the Crew Dragon in orbit will be simple compared to piloting a Soyuz. In fact, the Crew Dragon will allegedly be completely autonomous, meaning that even docking to stations like the International Space Station won’t need the help of the Canadarm2 a giant robotic arm attached to the ISS — or manual control input from the astronauts, which was the case for previous iterations of the Dragon.

As of today, SpaceX is planning on launching the first Crew Dragon on January 17th. But if delays this week are any indication, that date is subject to change.

READ MORE: Dragon shows off its new, integrated solar arrays as SpaceX nears first flight [Ars Technica]

More on Crew Dragon: Here’s What We Know About SpaceX’s Crewed Dragon Spacecraft

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