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SpaceX tests new engine for Dragon capsule

An artistic illustration of Dragon spacecraft's landing. A SpaceX photo

HAWTHORNE (BNS): Private US space firm SpaceX has successfully tested a new engine for the Dragon spacecraft which it says will ensure safety of astronauts during space flight missions.

The new powerful SuperDraco engine, an advancement of the Draco engines currently used by SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft to maneuver on orbit and during reentry, will enable astronauts to eject to safety in the event of an emergency during launch.

As part of SpaceX's state-of-the-art launch escape system, eight SuperDraco engines built into the side walls of the Dragon spacecraft will produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry astronauts to safety should an emergency occur during launch.

The eight SuperDracos provide redundancy, so that even if one engine fails an escape can still be carried out successfully.

The engines can also be restarted multiple times if necessary and they will have the ability to deep throttle, providing astronauts with precise control and enormous power, SpaceX said.

In addition, as a part of a recoverable Dragon spacecraft, the engines can be used repeatedly, helping to advance SpaceX's long-term goal of making spacecraft more like airplanes, which can be flown again and again with minimal maintenance between flights, it said.

The company had received a $75 million contract from NASA's Commercial Crew Programme in April, 2011 to develop the escape system in order to prepare the Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts.

Less than nine months later, SpaceX engineers have designed, built and tested the engine, the company said.

"SuperDraco engines represent the best of cutting edge technology," said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Technology Officer.

"These engines will power a revolutionary launch escape system that will make Dragon the safest spacecraft in history and enable it to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy," he said.

SpaceX is among several other US firms vying to operate a private space capsule that could ferry astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station, after NASA retired its space shuttle programme last year.

The company in December 2010 became the first commercial outfit to send its unmanned Dragon spacecraft into orbit and back.


SpaceX  Dragon  ISS  

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