SpaceX Unveils Cabin of the Future to NASA Astronauts

Industry experts offer feedback as company works on building a manned Dragon prototype.

SpaceX Dragon Cabin

SpaceX Dragon Cabin

** Industry experts review the Dragon's potential
cabin design as part of an effort to bring a
manned version of the craft to space.**

SpaceX recently gave NASA astronauts their first real glimpse inside the craft that will eventually ferry them to and from space if the company’s bid to provide one of the first commercial space shuttles is successful.

The prototype interior of the Dragon, a spacecraft that has already been awarded a $1.6 billion NASA contract to perform cargo flights to and from the International Space Station, contains seven seats that are attached to the pressure vessel walls of the craft and can each hold a 250-pound adult up to 6’5” tall.

According to SpaceX, the dragon interior is large enough to hold the entire three-person Russian Soyuz capsule descent module within it. That same breadth of space allows for the accommodation of three people standing in addition to all seven seated crewmembers.

A team of industry experts including four NASA astronauts tried those seats on for size last week, providing feedback on the design’s potential effectiveness in a variety of situations. The test was the first of two NASA crew trials SpaceX plans to hold as part of its effort to build a manned version of the Dragon after winning a $75 million NASA contract to pursue the goal.

Since the last of NASA’s shuttle fleet retired last summer, the agency has relied on Russia to ferry American astronauts to and from the ISS, shelling out approximately $60 million per trip. SpaceX is just one of a number of commercial space ventures vying to compete for that business.

SpaceX's dragon is currently scheduled to make the first commercial cargo run to the ISS on April 30, after delays set the launch time back from its earlier Feb. 7 date.

As the company continues to pursue government-sponsored space travel, it is also gearing up to try and bring space travel within reach of a broader population. In a recent interview with BBC News, SpaceX founder Elon Musk described the company’s vision for a reusable rocket transport vehicle that could ferry space travelers to Mars, refuel there and then return home.

“We will probably unveil the overall strategy later this year in a little more detail, but I’m quite confident that it could work and that ultimately we could offer a round trip to Mars that the average person could afford – let’s say the average person after they’ve made some savings,” he told the news outlet.

Right now, he estimates his company can offer those seats to Mars within the next 10 to 15 years at a sticker price of $500,000.