First Look Inside America's First Private Spaceship

In June 2010, SpaceX launched a simplified version of their Dragon capsule into orbit. It was the first private spaceship in history, and it was a complete success. Now they are human testing it, getting it ready for its first manned flight.

The Dragon spacecraft's interior -- which will be able to carry seven astronauts to orbit -- was tested by SpaceX and NASA experts, including four NASA astronauts. They "participated in human factors assessments which covered entering and exiting Dragon under both normal and contingency cases, as well as reach and visibility evaluations."

The spaceship is actually quite big and comfortable. So big, in fact, that you can fit an entire three-astronaut Soyuz descent capsule inside it. The seven seats inside -- which are held to the pressure vessel walls by a lightweight structure -- can hold adults up to 6 feet 5 inches (196cm) tall, with a weight of 113kg. SpaceX says that each seat has "a liner that is custom-fit for the crewmember".

When finished, Dragon would be able to carry seven astronauts to orbit and dock with the International Space Station. This engineering prototype had the seven seats in place, along with representations of the crew accommodations, like lighting, environmental control and life support systems, displays, cargo racks and other interior systems.

This is the testing crew: NASA Crew Survival Engineering Team Lead Dustin Gohmert, NASA Astronaut Tony Antonelli, NASA Astronaut Lee Archambault, SpaceX Mission Operations Engineer Laura Crabtree, SpaceX Thermal Engineer Brenda Hernandez, NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim and NASA Astronaut Tim Kopra.

Right now, SpaceX is preparing the first launch of a Dragon spaceship to dock with the International Space Station. This flight will be automated and will not carry any crew, only supplies. Initially, this launch was going to happen on February 7 from Cape Canaveral, on top of another 18-storey high Falcon 9 rocket. It was finally delayed, but it is supposed to happen this year. [SpaceX]

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