SpaceX plans to take the wraps off its new Dragon Mk 2 spacecraft Thursday evening from its Hawthorne, California headquarters.
The manned space taxi will be capable of sending a mix of cargo and up to seven crew members to the International Space Station. The Dragon V2 is an upgraded version of the unmanned spacecraft Dragon, which in 2012 became the first commercial spaceship to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station and return safely to Earth. Last Sunday, the fourth Dragon ship returned from the ISS, hauling about 3,500 pounds of equipment to Earth.
The U.S. ended its space shuttle program in 2011, and is currently dependent on Russian Soyuz capsules to transport astronauts to the ISS, a ride that costs $71 million per person. With political tensions rising between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine, NASA is hoping its partnerships with the private sector, including SpaceX, can provide a solution to transport its astronauts to the ISS.
Earlier this week, SpaceX also announced it finished qualification testing of its SuperDraco thruster, an advanced version of the Drago engines used in the Dragon ship. The new engine “will power the Dragon spacecraft’s launch escape system and enable the vehicle to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy,” according to a press release.
SpaceX’s livestream is embedded below. Tune in at 10 p.m. ET to watch the Dragon V2’s unveiling.