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How SpaceX's Dragon Space Capsule Works (Infographic)

A look inside the SpaceX Dragon capsule and its Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX's Dragon space capsule design is a gumdrop-shaped spacecraft built for spaceflights into and from low-Earth orbit. The spacecraft was initially designed as an unmanned spacecraft, but is being scaled up to launch astronauts into space as well.

The Dragon space capsule is 14.4 feet tall (4.4 meters) and 12 feet wide (9.2 meters). It launches on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, a two-stage booster that currently launches from a pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Dragon is a solar powered spacecraft with about 245 cubic feet (7 cubic meters) of usable space inside its pressurized vessel. The spacecraft also has an unpressurized "trunk" that offers an additional 490 cubic feet (14 cubic meters) of space for cargo. Altogether, the spacecraft can carry up to 7,297 pounds (3,310 kilograms) of supplies into orbit.

The spacecraft is also designed to survive re-entry through Earth's atmosphere and splash down in the Pacific Ocean for water landings off the coast of Southern California. SpaceX (the name is short for Space Exploration Technologies) is based in Hawthorne, Calif., which is home to the company's rocket and spacecraft factory. [SpaceX's Dragon's Space Station Arrival in Pictures]

SpaceX has a contract with NASA for $1.6 billion to provide at least 12 cargo missions to the International Space Station. The Dragon space capsule made its first test flight to the station in May 2012 and is the first commercial spacecraft ever to visit the station, as well as the first unmanned American spacecraft to do so.

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