Amazing Pictures: SpaceX's Dragon Spaceship in Orbit From the Inside Out

SpaceX Dragon capsule visible from space station on May 24, 2012
SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft (bright light) is seen in cameras mounted to the exterior of the space station during its first flyby in this still from a NASA broadcast on May 24, 2012. (Image credit: NASA TV)

New photos taken by the private space capsule Dragon offer an intimate view of its groundbreaking mission to the International Space Station.

The unmanned Dragon spacecraft, built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), launched Tuesday (May 22) to become the first non-governmental vehicle to dock at the space station. The capsule made its first flyby of the station early this morning (May 24), and is expected to arrive at the orbiting laboratory tomorrow.

A series of photos taken by cameras onboard the unmanned capsule show the view both inside and out during the mission, a final test flight before Dragon can be certified to deliver cargo to the space station.

One view shows the inside of the SpaceX capsule, which measures 14.4 feet tall (4.4 meters) and 12 feet wide (3.7 m), packed with crew rations, clothing and supplies, as well as science experiments designed by students.

SpaceX tweeted this photo of the Dragon's spacecraft interior in space on May 22, 2012. The company wrote: "First look inside Dragon in orbit." (Image credit: SpaceX)

Another image reveals the critical deployment of Dragon's solar arrays. Though these energy-providing panels had been opened during tests on Earth, never before had they been unfurled in orbit. Had they failed, Dragon would not be able to carry out its rendezvous as planned.

View from SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft looking outward at one of two solar array panels in the process of deploying after launch on May 22, 2012. (Image credit: SpaceX)

A photo taken on launch day also shows a view of the door of Dragon's guidance, navigation and control panel. Opening this door was another critical step after launch to ensure mission success.

This view from SpaceX's Dragon capsule shows the opening of the guidance, navigation and control bay door. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX also released a photo taken of Earth from Dragon by the capsule's thermal imager, which will be used during its rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station.

SpaceX tweeted this image taken by the Dragon capsule in orbit on May 22, 2012. The company wrote: "Earth as seen by a thermal imager that Dragon will use in its approach to the International Space Station." (Image credit: SpaceX (via Twitter @SpaceX))

Dragon is due to spend just under a week linked with the station, before being loaded with cargo and sent to return back to Earth and splash down in the Pacific Ocean.

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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.