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SpaceX unveils Dragon V2, its first manned spacecraft


Dragon V2. Photo: SpaceX.

HAWTHORNE, CALIFORNIA (BNS): American private space firm SpaceX on Thursday unveiled a refined version of its Dragon unmanned space capsule -- DragonV2 -- that will ferry astronauts to space.

The new cone-headed craft, which is a slimmer, sleeker version of the Dragon space freighter, was unveiled at the company's state-of-the-art design and manufacturing facility at Hawthorne, California.

The upgrades in the new craft include solar arrays that will be affixed to the side of the spacecraft's trunk instead of on fold-out wings and a new launch escape system that will allow crew members to escape an anomaly at any point during flight.

The vehicle is intended to ferry seven astronauts to low-Earth orbit, along with critical cargo and supplies.

Unveiling the DragonV2, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said it will be able to "land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter...That is how a 21st century spaceship should land."

SpaceX is one of NASA's commercial partners working to develop a new generation of US spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting humans to and from the Earth's orbit.

Ultimately, NASA intends to use such commercial systems to fly US astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

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.

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

In May 2012, it successfully conducted re-supply mission to the ISS using the Dragon capsule.

SpaceX says its Dragon V2 crew capsule would be able to reach the ISS with astronauts aboard by 2017.

The spacecraft is scheduled to fly for the first time in a pad abort test later this year, followed by an in-flight abort test, as part of the company's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability agreement with NASA.

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SpaceX  Dragon V2  

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