A photographic tour of the new Dragon capsule.

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A photographic tour of the new Dragon capsule.

Lots of nice touches, but I have concerns about the touch screens. It is difficult enough to hit the right touchscreen buttons when you sitting in your chair at home. How much harder will it be for an astronaut to do so during a launch, when the capsule is shaking and rocking as it accelerates to orbit. Hard buttons and switches in this situation, giving the astronaut something solid to hold onto, might actually make a lot more sense.



  • Pzatchok

    I agree about the touch screens.
    Use them all day at work and each one has its own personality about touch area and sensitivity.

    But I suspect that once the course is set they just have to sit back and let the computer take care of everything.

    The pilot more than likely has an emergency parachute switch but thats all. Plus the rocket controls for when manual control is called for.
    I suspect everything is happening during entry way to fast for manual control to be a very good choice.

  • BSJ

    I too am concerned about the touch screen.

    If that single screen fails, and is the only thing to fail, you’d be SOL no matter the condition of everything else.

  • Steve Rogers

    I also prefer a basic suite of dedicated instruments and controls rather than putting everything in multi-function touch screens, but then I flew some of the last “analog” airplanes. One of the reports I saw did mention at least minimal manual backup.

  • Cotour

    Beautiful! Money well spent.

  • mpthompson

    I’ve read the F35 is using touchscreens in its cockpit. Seems to the direction the aviation industry is moving. I wonder if they have a lot of “Are you sure!” dialogs popping up caused by fat fingers.

  • mivenho

    The original Mercury Seven, being accomplished military pilots, would have chafed at flying in something as automated as Dragon!

  • Cotour

    Q: Does the capsule forgo a parachute safety system because it has such control over how it lands?

    And I would assume that there would be two to three levels of backup control systems besides the shinny and sexy flat screen. Is this the version that will actually fly? Or is it a mock-up?

  • joe

    I wonder how much simulator time this machine has with these interfaces and prospective or even retired pilots to observe the behavior of these electronics?

  • Pzatchok

    It looks like its actually four screens with a centralized manual control panel that will situate itself between the pilot and copilot.

    More than likely either side will have full control and identical layouts. So even if the pilots or copilots pair goes down the other can take over.

    And I am sure those are not the rinky-dink screens my company buys for us. I bet they will have good positive touch and rabid ‘contact’. Half the time ours take a second to react to the touch.

  • Pzatchok

    And yes there is a back up chute system in case the test firing of the engines doesn’t go well during the fall.

  • Patrick Ritchie

    If you watch the unveiling video, Elon is quite clear that there are manual switches for all key functions, the linked article also states.

    “Should the screens fail for any reason, there are hardware controls for all the essential functions as fallback.”

  • ken anthony

    The chance of getting a user interface right the first time is close to nil. Only through use will they get the feedback they need to get it better. It will get better.

    Virtual buttons can be adjusted faster but that isn’t a big issue. Gloves are a big issue.

  • Steve C

    Actually, originally the Mercury astronauts were not going to have any control over the capsule. They were not even going to have a window. The scientists considered them test subjects, not pilots. As you suggest, the astronauts were not happy and it lead to the First Monkey Revolt. This was corrected which was good since without the manual controls, Glen’s capsule would have been lost.

  • wodun

    It still has parachutes.

  • Steve C

    Awful lot of empty space in it. Not much support to the couches either. This looks like a picture set, not a working spacecraft.

  • mivenho

    Perhaps they will be issued styluses for the touch screens.

  • Bob B

    Two comments:
    Garmin’s GNS430 and GNS530 general aviation GPS receiver/display units have knobs that you grab and twist to control the units. This allowed control even though the airplane was shaking in turbulence because the pilot’s hand didn’t come loose from the knob.

    A few years later Garmin replaced these with touchscreen controlled units, which critics loudly proclaimed would not be controllable in turbulence. But Garmin had designed in a vertical groove on the right side of the unit where the pilot could rest his fingers while controlling the touch screen with his thumb. Apparently this works OK in turbulence. (These units are designed to be mounted to the right of the pilot and controlled by the pilot’s right hand).

    At the Seattle Boeing museum I heard a talk by an astronaut who had gone up to the space station a couple times, once on the Russian rocket, and the other time on the USA space shuttle. He said the rides were totally different: the Russian rocket, totally liquid fueled, gave an extremely smooth ride, whereas the space shuttle uses solid state boosters and gave a very rough ride.

    So I would predict the success of touchscreen control depends on what kind of rocket motor is used, and that touchscreen control can be successful even with moderate turbulence based on the Garmin experience.

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