By Chris Davies
SpaceX has revealed a new image of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, showing an incredible glass dome window on top for incredible views of space. The new image shows the familiar bullet-shaped craft but now with a pop-up nose cone, which hinges back to reveal what might end up being the best seat in orbit.
It’s based on the existing Crew Dragon design, but does away with the docking adapter that would ordinarily be intended to mate with the International Space Station. That’s there so that astronaut missions can take place, shuttling people up and down from the ISS, as well as cargo and other items.
For SpaceX’s orbital missions, however, there’s no need for the docking adapter. Instead, space tourists will benefit from a better view of their surroundings than the current Crew Dragon’s windows. “Probably most “in space” you could possibly feel by being in a glass dome,” SpaceX’s Elon Musk tweeted about the design today.
Exact details on the spacecraft variant haven’t been shared. Crew Dragon is an iteration on SpaceX’s Dragon 2 design for a highly reusable spacecraft, and the successor to the Dragon 1 craft which was used for cargo alone. There’ll be two Dragon 2 types, one for passengers and another for cargo alone, with autonomous docking functionality allowing it to navigate itself to the International Space Station.
NASA has certified Dragon 2 for crewed missions, but SpaceX also has ideas for using it for commercial flights. That would cater to the growing interest in so-called space tourism, allowing suitably rich travelers the opportunity to experience weightlessness along with getting an unprecedented view of Earth and space around it.
Of course, exactly when the hatch will be opened for that view will depend on the current status of the mission. It’ll obviously need to be shut tight for takeoff and reentry, given Crew Dragon will require the dome to be protected.
Back in early 2020, SpaceX inked a deal with Space Adventures for its first trips to space for private citizens. Four passengers will be onboard, with SpaceX providing the rockets while Space Adventures handles the passenger side. It’ll be a free-flying mission, orbiting Earth rather than trying to dock anywhere. Initial estimates for the launch are late-2021 to mid-2022, depending on when all of the technology is deemed sufficiently safe for use.