PayPal Founder's SpaceX Preps First Human-Piloted Shuttle Launch

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It's been about fourteen months since the first successful private spaceship launch, Dragon, and now that same space exploration company is prepping to step into their next phase: a human-piloted launch.

SpaceX, founded by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, is preparing the next flight test in which the Dragon spacecraft will go to the International Space Station: first with supplies then, later, with humans. SpaceX is notable in space exploration history as it was the first private company to ever receive the Federal Aviation Administration's commercial license to reenter a spacecraft from orbit. More, in safely returning its spacecraft to earth, SpaceX achieved what only six countries on earth have been able to do.

Since the success of Dragon back in 2010, the company's been working on the crew cabin digs for Dragon to function in both nominal and off-nominal scenarios. Details were provided from an update on SpaceX's website:

The engineering prototype includes seven seats as well as representations of crew accommodations such as lighting, environmental control and life support systems, displays, cargo racks, and other interior systems. During the daylong test, SpaceX and NASA evaluators including four NASA astronauts, participated in human factors assessments which covered entering and exiting Dragon under both normal and contingency cases, as well as reach and visibility evaluations. The seven seats mount to strong, lightweight supporting structures attached to the pressure vessel walls. Each seat can hold an adult up to 6 feet 5 inches tall, 250 lbs, and has a liner that is custom-fit for the crewmember.

As you can see, the crew looks like they're having a pretty good time fitting their seats out.

If that wasn't big enough, the cabin also has enough room to accomodate three additional people. To convey exactly how capacious this shuttle is, SpaceX notes that a three-person Soyuz capsule descent module could fit inside of Dragon's pressure vessel. For reference's sake, the Soyuz had more than seven cubic meters of living space inside of it. For you non-metric minded, that's over 247 cubic feet. In other words, say goodbye to astro-claustrophobia.

That white-coated gent in the center there, by the way, is Musk calmly contemplating the future of space exploration.

Back in December 2010, Gizmodo, who tipped off the news of SpaceX's plans for a human-piloted launch, documented Dragon's first successful launch with live coverage as well with a couple of videos of the launch.

Below you can check out an altitude test of Dragon that was conducted back in August 2010 in order to confirm the functionality of the parachute deployment systems and recovery options.

If all goes well with SpaceX's plans this year, the company stands to press the business of space exploration into some exhilarating new directions.

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