On June 2010, SpaceX launched into orbit a simplified version of their Dragon capsule. It was the first private spaceship in history, and it was a complete success. Now they are human testing it, getting it ready for its first manned flight.
It is a very important step for SpaceX and NASA. Dragon will enable the United States to stop depending on the Russians for launching astronauts to the space station. After the end of the space shuttle program, this is badly needed.
The Dragon spacecraft's interior—which will be able to carry seven astronauts to orbit—was tested by SpaceX and NASA experts, including four NASA astronauts. They "participated in human factors assessments which covered entering and exiting Dragon under both normal and contingency cases, as well as reach and visibility evaluations."
The spaceship is actually quite big and comfortable. So big, in fact, that you can fit an entire three-astronaut Soyuz descent capsule inside it. The seven seats inside—which are held to the pressure vessel walls by a lightweight structure—can hold adults up to 6 feet 5 inches tall, with a weight of 250 pounds. SpaceX says that each seat has "a liner that is custom-fit for the crewmember."
When finished, Dragon would be able to carry seven astronauts to orbit and dock with the International Space Station. This engineering prototype had the seven seats in place, along with representations of the crew accommodations, like lighting, environmental control and life support systems, displays, cargo racks, and other interior systems.
The first testing crew.
Right now, SpaceX is preparing the first launch of a Dragon spaceship to dock with the International Space Station. This flight will be automated and will not carry any crew, only supplies. Initially, this launch was going to happen on February 7 from Cape Canaveral, on top of another 18-story-high Falcon 9 rocket. It was finally delayed, but it is supposed to happen this year. [SpaceX]
Here's Elon Musk—the founder of SpaceX—checking out the capsule.