Re: SpaceX is seriously cool
Isn't it already effectively man-ready but it's just that it has to be "proven" with multiple un-manned successful uses first?
John Brown (no body),
No. The SpaceX Dragon capsule isn't man rated. And I don't think it ever could be. It's just designed to get the dinner up to the ISS. Only half the capsule is even pressurised and heated.
The one they showed at the end of last year is the Dragon 2. Perhpas they should have called it Double Dragon...
Anyway there are several things that you need to do to get man-rating. You need extra redundencies built in. I believe the Falcon rocket (and ESA's Arianne) meet the requirements, not sure if either have bothered with the paperwork yet. You also need a history of successful launches, which Falcon has obviously done pretty well at building.
Next you need an escape tower, to get the capsule away from the launchpad in case of a pad fire. SpaceX aren't proposing to have one of these. As the Dragon2 will have fast-start multi-use engines for driving around in space and for landing, they propose to use those instead. So that will save a bit of cash, and should be no less safe.
Obviously they'll have to build the Dragon2 and do some test orbits, to prove it's safe. And then get it man-rated. And then prove it can safely dock with the ISS. And then prove that it can survive in orbit for a decent length of time (I think 6 months is what Soyuz is rated for), as the ISS team who use it to get up there keep it as a lifeboat (and to go home in).
The Dragon2 is also supposed to be re-usable, and lands on engine power on land, rather than parachuting into the water. And it's also designed to be able to land on the Moon or Mars. If it all works as planned, it'll be a very capable space exploration workhorse. Elon Musk does not lack ambition. But then he also seems to keep meeting the engineering tests he sets himself. It's deeply impressive.
In 5-10 years time he's looking to have his own space base in Texas, the Falcon 9 re-usable booster to get to the ISS and launch satellites, plus the Falcon Heavy, which will be almost as big as a Saturn V - and so could launch flights to the Moon - or new ISS or Mars-ship modules. Falcon Heavy will be made up of several Falcon 9s, and will almost all be able to land back at Texas after launch to be reused. Except the ones that go further, which he plans to land on his barges (and also re-use. Plus he'll have a re-usable man-rated capsule that can land at Texas too, and so doesn't get all contaminated with horrible seawater, and has the ability to be launched direct to the Moon, and be it's own lunar lander too. Plus you could use Falcon Heavy to launch bits of a ship to go to Mars (or an asteroid), assemble them in orbit, and send some Dragon capsules along to use as the shuttles.