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SpaceX touts latest gear: new module, rocket demo

Musk lets slip plans for Dragon Mk 2 capsule

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Vid Private spaceflight company SpaceX is preparing to unveil the Mark II build of its Dragon capsule.

In a pair of Tweets posted Friday morning, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that May 29 would see the unveiling of the capsule that the company hopes will be the first private craft to ferry crews to the International Space Station (ISS). He also took the opportunity to poke fun at Russian suggestions that that US resort to trampolines for future launches.

The Dragon craft operates as the primary means for carrying cargo to and docking with the ISS. When paired with the company's reuseable Falcon 9 rocket system, the two form the backbone of SpaceX's early efforts to commercialize private spaceflights.

While the Dragon craft currently supports a pressurized capsule section on top of its unpressurized cargo holds, thus far the craft has been limited to unmanned missions. The Mk 2 release would be designed to carry a crew of astronauts.

While SpaceX officials have said that the company was looking to conduct a manned mission as early as 2015, neither approval from NASA nor a contract for a manned mission has yet been announced. Presumably the Dragon Mk 2 craft will require a number of tests both on earth and in orbit before approval for the first private manned spaceflight would be granted.

The company's manifest lays out planned missions to the ISS through 2016, though all are currently listed as the resupply-type missions previously carried out by the unmanned craft.

Musk also posted video of an April trial run of the Falcon 9 that saw the rocket showcase both its takeoff and upright-landing ability. In being able to land the rockets, SpaceX hopes to make the craft retrievable and reusable, dramatically cutting the cost of launching a craft into space.

SpaceX Falcon 9 trial

Falcon 9 takeoff and landing

The ability to take crews to and from the ISS has, since the retirement of the US space shuttle fleet, been exclusively the domain of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. As diplomatic tensions have built between the US and Russia, however, many stateside are calling for greater domestic investment in programs that will not rely on Russian space technology.

Musk himself recently brought the situation to a head when he sued the US for violating sanctions by purchasing rockets from Russia. ®

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