SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to get a glass dome for panoramic views

SpaceX

A new version of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will include a glass dome offering those traveling aboard the capsule panoramic views of Earth, the moon, and beyond.

According to an image (below) posted online by SpaceX, the dome will be at the tip of the capsule, hidden beneath a protective section that will lift away once the spacecraft reaches orbit. The design is possible because this particular Crew Dragon won’t be docking with the International Space Station (ISS), eliminating the need for a hatch at the top.

A new view for crew pic.twitter.com/iSVwUyJT5R

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 30, 2021

Retweeting the image to his 50 million followers, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote: “Probably most ‘in space’ you could possibly feel by being in a glass dome.”

The only comparable design currently in space is the ISS’s Cupola, a seven-window observatory module that was added to the orbiting satellite in 2010 to offer astronauts the best vantage point of our planet and beyond. It’s from there that ISS astronauts take many of the photos they share online.

Inspiration4 mission

The unveiling came on the same day that SpaceX’s first-ever all-civilian mission — Inspiration4 — revealed the remaining crew members for a launch scheduled to take place later this year. And yes, they’ll get to peer out of the dome during their three days in orbit.

Inspiration4 was announced in February 2021, with Shift4 Payments CEO Jared Isaacman set to command the mission. Hayley Arceneaux was recently announced as the second crew member, meaning she’ll be the first bone cancer survivor to become an astronaut, the first person with a prosthetic body part to travel to space, and, at 29, the youngest American to orbit Earth.

This week, the mission announced Dr. Sian Proctor and Christopher Sembroski as the final two crew members. Proctor, a trained pilot, gained selection via an online business competition, while Sembroski currently works at at Lockheed Martin and is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

Notably, the crew on the Inspiration4 mission will have a slightly different view of Earth than the ISS astronauts as it will be aiming for an orbit of 355 miles above our planet, whereas the space station orbits at around 250 miles.

Space tourism

The current Crew Dragon capsule, which has already transported two lots of astronauts to the ISS in the past eight months, features windows around the side, but the inclusion of a glass dome will give the spacecraft that extra wow factor that could boost the company’s efforts to attract customers to its planned space tourism business. The likes of Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are also aiming to enter the same market in the next year or two.

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