back to article SpaceX 'Dragon V2' rocket podule can hover-land on Earth - or MARS

Elon Musk has unveiled the manned rocket he hopes will win his upstart rocket startup SpaceX the contract to ferry ‘nauts to and from the International Space Station – and set humanity on the path to Martian colonisation. Youtube Video Musk lived up to the Tony Stark comparisons with a glitzy ceremony to literally unveil the …

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  1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Hooray!

    Well done Hank Scorpio Elon Musk

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Re: Hooray!

      Seriously, awesome reveal.

      Maybe after this, Musk should consider adopting a large white Persian cat.

      1. Vulch

        Re: Hooray!

        No need...

        https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/192701084932907009

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Hooray!

        ""Seriously, awesome reveal."

        No, there was no awe there. There was a standard, managed by marketing, reveal of a new product.

        The show was just a bit "samey" on a par with a new car launch except the presenter/host is obviously an amateur at that sort of thing. Stilted presentation and he kept making weird noises obviously forgetting the mic was on.

        On the other hand, the actual product is very impressive and I can't wait to see it fly (and land!!)

        1. Robert E A Harvey

          But how ?

          But how does the falling curtain at the ceremony work? Where did it go?

          1. Snar

            Re: But how ?

            Two big Hoovers either side of the Dragon sucked them up!

            I had to do a re-take :)

            1. DropBear

              Re: But how ?

              Heh heh, you bet I did one too, immediately... inquiring minds and all that...

        2. Salts

          Re: Hooray!

          @ John Brown

          Ah, my lad, where you not just a boy in shorts in the 1960's? If you where, life has made you cynical, if not, the magic you missed.

          Truly as a young boy, I remember sitting in the barbers in front of a black and white fuzzy portable thing and the only reason I would accept the trip was the TV was their.

          Musk has brought back the magic, the dreams and the vision, all those years ago it took super powers on the brink of nuclear war.

          I like the cut of his jib :-)

  2. Robert E A Harvey
    Thumb Up

    SPACE!!!

    Hurrah!

    Elon Musk for world president, I say!

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: SPACE!!!

      World president? Are you crazy? We have already enough problems with the US president.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: SPACE!!!

        "We have already enough problems with the US president."

        - and the next one is...? Hilary or Jeb. Please No.

        1. Zuagroasta

          Re: SPACE!!!

          Jeb Bush, don't think so. Karl Rove is dead.

          Jeb Kerman, on the other hand, would make a perfect partner in Government for Elon Musk...

  3. Spiracle

    Marketing challenge

    No doubt the SpaceX people have worked through all of the connotations of calling a rocket the 'V2'.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Marketing challenge

      Probably not something of issue in the US since they were rather too far away to be in range :)

      1. emmanuel goldstein

        Re: Marketing challenge

        not to mention spiriting nazi rocket scientists back stateside after the war.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Marketing challenge

          Not to mention the fact that the Russian's spirited their OWN Nazi rocket scientists away as well, only they spent more of their time in a Gulag like enviroment.

          The US Army Air Corp was alot more accomodating of their "guests" needs.

        2. Jaybus

          Re: Marketing challenge

          "not to mention spiriting nazi rocket scientists back stateside after the war."

          Not just the scientists. They took 300 rail cars of parts stateside as well. In any case, the Vergeltungswaffe 2 was designated V-2, not V2, so I don't think the name should cause anyone to confuse a modern spacecraft with a 70 year old ballistic missile.

    2. jzlondon

      Re: Marketing challenge

      SpaceX aren't calling it the V2, they're calling it Dragon V2. As in, version 2. Most reporters, including the Reg, seem to be shortening it to just V2.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Marketing challenge

        "Most reporters, including the Reg, seem to be shortening it to just V2"

        At least no one seems to be calling it two point oh.

  4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    Funding challenge sorted

    "Musk announced that the V2 can transport up to seven ‘nauts.. You will be able to land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter,”

    Or 4 Space Marines with their equipment. Once the trademarks are resolved. Impressive bit of technology though.

    1. BenR

      Re: Funding challenge sorted

      Closer to being a Dreadclaw I think.

      Although they aren't that 'accurate' in canon... just mental psycho-crazy AIs.

  5. Semtex451

    V2 taxicab

    Part of Hailo now too?

    Sssh. Keep that under your hat.

  6. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

    lander legs and fuel

    If this was explained in the vid, I apologize. Crappy work connection this morning wouldn't let me view it.

    The lander legs extend from the bottom, i.e. "through" the heat shield (assuming a fixed, reusable, Shuttle-style shield). Given that we have seen the results of imperfections or small holes in that type of surface (Shuttle Columbia), would it not have been better to have the legs extend from the SIDES of the craft and leave the bottom an unbroken surface?

    Also, are the "lander rockets" going to fire almost all of the way down? That's an awful lot of fuel. Seems like it would be simpler to use parachutes most of the way then the rockets in the last minute or two for decelleration to soft landing on the legs.

    Regardless, though, REALLY excited to see this. Anything that advances our human spaceflight options is good news.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: lander legs and fuel

      The video didn't really talk about the landing legs, so I don't know.

      You won't need to fire the engines all the way down though. The atmosphere will be slowing the spacecraft down as it thickens, while the capsule plummets towards the ground. It then fires up the engines for a test run. If the computer or drivers don't like the looks of this, it turns them back off again, and deploys parachutes. I presume it'll normally come down by the coast, so it can do an emergency water landing by parachute if required, and only manoeuvre over land once it's proved the engines are working.

      If everything's fine, then it turns the engines on for a bit more slow-downeyness. Given that it's the opposite of an aerodynamic shape, terminal velocity in the lower atmosphere isn't going to be very fast, So I'd imagine it will slow itself down from stupid speeds, and then idle the jets for a bit while falling, before doing the final braking at very low level.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: lander legs and fuel

      Erm. where do you think the Shuttle's landing gear extended from? As well as the large (18") pipes to the external tank, which were covered by doors too. Intentional holes can actually be engineered to not be a problem.

      And no, the rockets don't fire all the way down, just a bit at the end, just like the Lunar Module landing on the Moon.

  7. Elmer Phud

    Nice

    Looks just like ice lollies I used to get as a kid

  8. Bob Wheeler
    Pint

    Any chance...

    .. we could get that nice Mr Musk to develope a 'B' Ark?

  9. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    It's empty!

    If that were the set for a sci-fi film you'd be laughed at -- not nearly enough in the way of switches, lights and buttons.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Re: It's empty!

      "If that were the set for a sci-fi film you'd be laughed at -- not nearly enough in the way of switches, lights and buttons."

      Not only that, but not nearly enough pointless and meaningless switches, lights and buttons -- at least, for a 1950s "B" sci-fi filck.

      Actually, the instrumentation in Dragon V2 looks more like the instrument panels in the spacecraft in Kubrick's 2001 -- lots of video panels displaying multiple types of engineering and flight data, and which look as if they have an actual function and purpose.

      1. b166er

        Re: It's empty!

        'Oh, cut the bleeding heart crap will ya? We've all got our switches, lights, and knobs to deal with, Striker. I mean, down here there are literally hundreds and thousands of blinking, beeping, and flashing lights, blinking, beeping and flashing - they're flashing and they're beeping. I can't stand it anymore! They're blinking and beeping and flashing! Why doesn't somebody pull the plug?'

        1. HighTech4US

          Re: It's empty!

          Fantastic. I wonder how many here got your UFO quote. That was and still is a favorite show of mine and the episode you quote from was a Mind Bender (Pun intended).

          http://www.tv.com/shows/ufo/mindbender-76174/

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: It's empty!

      Occasionally I do some sci fi 3D modeling and I've often heard the same complaint. "Not enough greeble!"

      To which I reply, "That is SO last century, grandpa!"

      Here is Spaceship One's cockpit.

      Notice the lack of clutter.

      Here's the Space Shuttle cockpit.

      Amazing what a difference 18 years make. (from shuttle's first test flight to Spaceship One's first maiden flight)

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: It's empty!

        Actually, you should have gotten a pic of the Shuttle cockpit before the MEDS overhaul, back when it had all the analog steam gauges,

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: It's empty!

          ..steam gauges and magnetic core memory. Early NVRAM. It was functional. The interior of the Dragon does look rather sparse, presumably because the passengers can't really do much during ascent & descent to fly the pod? But hopefully this will make turning the space station into a waystation for a manned Moon or Mars base easier.

      2. Mike Flugennock

        Re: It's empty!

        That's as maybe, but the Space Shuttle cockpit -- which you show in its last iteration before the fleet was decommissioned -- looks waaaayyy cooler. Reminds me a lot of this.

        Just for comparison, here's STS-1 crewmen Young and Crippen in the Columbia cockpit, circa 1981. There's two small computer displays, and the rest is all "traditional" gauges, readouts, and classic "8-ball" displays, bearing a closer resemblance to the old Apollo CM panels than the later "glass cockpit" the Shuttles were flying in the last years before they were retired.

    3. DropBear

      Re: It's empty!

      As much as I appreciate the clean design, I can't help but wonder what exactly is one supposed to use to stabilize a capsule potentially spinning wildly out of control, as in that Agena incident way back...? Yes I saw that space-mouse thingy in the centre, but it doesn't look like something you can control a spacecraft with in conditions that make even moving one's arm rather hard...

      1. Franklin

        Re: It's empty!

        Seems to me that nowadays that's the kind of task best suited to a computer, not a bloke with a joystick. If the computer fails you're kinda up the creek anyway; it's not like you're going to take manual control and pilot it down yourself.

        1. Mike Flugennock

          Re: It's empty!

          "...If the computer fails you're kinda up the creek anyway; it's not like you're going to take manual control and pilot it down yourself..."

          Uhhmmm... y'mean, the way Neil Armstrong seized control and steered the LM clear of a boulder field that the computer was steering them into on the way down to Tranquillity?

  10. Mike Flugennock
    Thumb Up

    "My heart would be a fireball...!"

    Is it just me or does the Dragon V2, in orbital configuration, look like the front end of the old Fireball XL5?

    I think it's the fins.

    1. FartingHippo
      Pint

      Re: "My heart would be a fireball...!"

      Er. That's quite uncanny. Good spot, that man.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: "My heart would be a fireball...!"

      Everything's better with fins!

      It's so long ago, that I'd forgotten what Fireball XL5 looked like. Even though I still remember all the words of the theme tune {Ahem! Best keep quiet about that. - Ed]. But it isn't just you.

      Not only does the orbital module thingy have fins, but it also has that clever solar panel on the side. So you don't need the complication of moveable arms to deploy them, which sometimes fail - as well as carrying the weight on the capsule when it lands.

      Now the next trick I'm hoping for, is for SpaceX to start re-using those as well. Little bolt together modules which form SpaceX's very own space station. Although it'll probably then turn out that he's been working on a vast orbital laser, and will launch his inevitale global domination attempt from his new space platform. But I can forgive him for that, if I get to go to space first.

      1. DropBear

        Re: "My heart would be a fireball...!"

        Everything's better with fins!

        Obviously. But they are still severely lacking in the 'lasers' department. Then we can just slap the shark-teeth decal on the nose-cone and call it a day...

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: "My heart would be a fireball...!"

      MIke Flugennock,

      I'm thinking of changing the upvote I gave you to a downvote. Since reading your excellent spot, I've been unable to stop the Fireball XL5 theme going through my head. Plus occasionally bursting into song. I'm going to be singing it all weekend! In my best 50s rock'n'roll voice.

      I suppose I do wish I were a spaceman. Although I don't care so much about being the fastest guy alive. Just one of them will do fine. I'll make sure I keep some antacids around, in case my heart does become a fireball though.

      1. Mike Flugennock

        Re: "My heart would be a fireball...!"

        Same here, man. That theme was stuck in my head for days afterwards.

  11. Irongut Silver badge

    That's a seriously sexy command pod. Jeb will be jealous.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Helicopters

    "You will be able to land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter"

    How long before Top Gear attempt to land one on a skoda? With the retro-rockets, that could be interesting! Mr Clarkson, would you mind driving this skoda...

  13. ItsNotMe
    Devil

    "... with an improved heat shield..."

    "... with an improved heat shield capable of withstanding large metal objects it may run over in its path."

    That's better. :-)

  14. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
    Happy

    "It lands like a proper 21st Century spacecraft should. Cue the music!"

    [Thunderbirds theme starts]

    Also geeky kudos points for the "carbon composite over-wrapped titanium spheres" that make up the fuel system. Were I a sci-fi script writer, I'd be busily stealing that sentence now. Also perhaps a product designer for over-priced mobile phones. "We laugh at Apple's mere liquid metal"...

    Lovely, shiny spaceship.

    Why isn't there a Nobel Prize for Space-loveliness?

    1. Mike Flugennock

      "space-loveliness"

      "Why isn't there a Nobel Prize for Space-loveliness?"

      Yeah, seriously... and they should give one to the guys who designed the Gemini C/SM. Apollo was a real pimp-ass ride for sure, but it didn't have the special kind of "cool" that the Gemini had. Even the cockpit looked cool, a real "pilot's spacecraft", as its crews called it. It may not have been the best thing to spend two weeks in but, man, what a sweet cockpit. We have the Gemini IV CM at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum here in DC, and I always like to stop and check it out every time I'm there.

      Also, needless to say, a Nobel for Space Loveliness has to go to the Space Shuttle designers -- and perhaps the X15, too, if you're one of those picky types who consider it a "spacecraft".

  15. Jonathan McBrien

    Only a beellion?

    They need a billion dollars to get this thing going? Are they crazy? You could buy half a basketball team for that.

    1. Greg D
      Joke

      Re: Only a beellion?

      Yeah but unless you're buying the Globetrotters, they won't be nearly half as useful as this.

    2. James Hughes 1

      Re: Only a beellion?

      It's a hell of a lot of money just to get it NASA qualified. More than the cost of developing the F9 I think. But I suppose you have to be careful of the wet cargo...

  16. Gene Cash Silver badge

    8 rockets

    It has 8 rockets, not 4, arranged in pairs. These are the ones it can lose two of, and still land.

    Now what I wonder about is if it can lose both pair of a single pod... that might be iffy control-wise.

    And I'll bet that 3D rocket engine printer is a very closely guarded highly proprietary secret. You'd probably have more luck getting Apple iPhone source code than getting that secret out of Musk & Co.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 8 rockets

      I bet it'd still be able to fly with only 3 engine pods. And the engines are so powerful they could lose half of them and still have a positive thrust/weight ratio. Or they'll just pop the chute and land hard.

    2. DropBear

      Re: 8 rockets

      You don't necessarily need access to that secret - Armadillo Aerospace was experimenting with 3D printed rocket engine parts years ago, which they simply have had manufactured commercially for them; I can't recall exactly precisely where. I'm not saying you can mail-order one right now, but it's hardly a SpaceX monopoly...

    3. Jaybus

      Re: 8 rockets

      "And I'll bet that 3D rocket engine printer is a very closely guarded highly proprietary secret. You'd probably have more luck getting Apple iPhone source code than getting that secret out of Musk & Co."

      Why? Musk is interested in new technology, not reinventing the wheel. Only the rocket design should be a highly guarded secret. The 3D printer is almost certainly a custom printer purchased from Stratasys or 3D Systems, I know 3D Systems has the ProX 300 that can work with several types of stainless steel and could probably do Ti, perhaps with different lasers (which btw come from yet another company).

  17. Ken 16 Silver badge

    Under acceleration...

    Is an overhead touch screen really a good idea?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Under acceleration...

      no need - Holly* (or HAL) will take care of things under voice instruction.

      Space X could also do it on the cheap and licence the technology behind Siri

      * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holly_%28Red_Dwarf%29

      Ask George Takei to reprise his Sulu role

      1. Psmo Silver badge

        Re: Under acceleration...

        Doubt it, as that technology has got a poor record when it comes to accents and you won't find a more mixed bunch than international astronauts.

        Still, if they do they'll be sure to find a golf course to land on.

  18. Chimp

    Just...

    ... wow. Wow. Fucking wow.

    Brunel. Stevenson. Bell. Wright (both of them). Musk.

  19. Chris G Silver badge
    Pint

    A thing of beauty

    Inside and out, what a stunning piece of design!

    And that is without even seeing it work; the effort put into sheer elegance for something that is going to be achieving something I have read about in science fiction for the last 50 plus years.

    I like musk anyway, if he was smooth and polished in his presentations it would not be anywhere near as good as his natural, halting style.

    I get the impression that he is bursting with pride but trying to play it down and be business like, in his place i don't think I could contain myself.

    He has a great team there.

    I think a barby and a beer for the weekend for all concerned.

    1. 4ecks
      Pint

      Re: A thing of beauty

      Well they've got the skill set & technology to do a "Carlsberg" of a BBQ, cryonics for the beer chiller & rocket thrusters for the grill.

      But seriously, well done to them for what's been achieved so far, and good luck for the future.

      Cheap(er) launch costs and fast turn-around of re-useable launch vehicles was what the Shuttle was supposed to be about, but with no real aim or ability to go above low earth orbit it didn't really have much of a use once the ISS was finished and the supply & ferry duties could be done by the Russians.

      Elon has the aim of Mars, and being a private company isn't subject to the whims of politicians and the pork-barrel price gouging of the military-industrial complex, a man with vision and the resources to see it made real.

  20. korgri

    Musk is gnashing his teeth

    Someone showed Elon a picture of Sierra Nevada's "Dream Chaser" vehicle, a rival contestant for the NASA contract. It'll probably win the deal on looks alone. "Jesus..." Musk looks aghast.."why didn't any of you clowns show me this before? These guys are gonna beat the pants off us!" Musk shifts into deep thinking mode, smoke wisping out of his ears. "I got it!" he exclaims, euphoric from the quick inspiration. "We change the design of the Dragon gradually! Version 2 will look a little sleeker. In eighteen months we'll be at Version 4 and have a lifting body that looks way cooler than Sierra Nevada's! Hooray!"

  21. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    depending on how well the money flows from the US government in the next couple of years

    A nice formulation for "current and as yet unborn taxpayers".

    Problem is that the economy is rapidly reaching extreme buttock clenching time. We will see.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Connectors....

    I noticed a fair sized panel of connectors just above the heat shield - How does that one work?

    1. Vulch

      Re: Connectors....

      If you have a look at the animation there's usually a cover over the connector panel. You need to have a lot of connections to the trunk (power from the solar cells, data connections, etc) as well as to the rocket telemetry on launch. Easier to go round the side of the heatshield than try and run the wires through it. If you look at a picture of the Apollo CSM (eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apollo_CSM_lunar_orbit.jpg ) you'll see exactly the same setup with the cover over the cables and panel being the lump at the bottom of that picture.

  23. mike_h

    SpaceX is very close to making Michael Flynn's Firestar a reality! This author in recent years space'd out a VTOL spacecraft with the sophisticated control system to take off and maneuver up, down, laterally with as much control as a helicopter - with no external wing analogs, as are the helicopter rotors.

    If only they could develop an integrated craft with the thrust for a ground to orbit stageless system, we would have the space travel system far thinkers have envisioned for centuries.

  24. ImpureScience

    Rocket Poodle?

    For the last few hours I've been glancing at the title of this story in my Register email and reading it as "SpaceX 'Dragon V2' ROCKET POODLE..." and assuming that it was some sort of British snark, or possibly a new canine breed, but no, just random brain damage on my part...

    I so love what Elon Musk is doing RE cars and space (what else is there, to a kid who grew up listening to the Beach Boys and watching us go to the moon?) Imagination, balls, and the resources to do something with serious, positive, lasting (I hope) effect.

  25. paulej72

    What about storage

    Looks like there is no storage for stuff the astronauts will need no their trip. Where is the space to store the flight suits, where is the food. Unless they plan on using a launch profile that allows for a quick dock to the ISS, they will need to eat and other things before docking.

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