SpaceX Dragon Vs Space Shuttle Vs Russian Soyuz – Astronaut Shares Key Flight Differences

Ramish Zafar
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour as it approaches the International Space Station (ISS) in April, bringing NASA astronauts Col (R) Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide to the orbiting space laboratory. Image: Mike Hopkins/Twitter

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Members of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur spoke to members of the press on Friday about their journey onboard Space Exploration Technologies Corp.'s (SpaceX) Crew Dragon capsule and daily life on the station. Kimbrough and McArthur are part of the four-member crew, part of Expedition 65 on the orbiting space laboratory. The interview provided more details about what a journey on the Dragon feels like for its passengers.

Falcon 9 & Crew Dragon "Somewhere In Between" Of Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz In Terms Of Ride Experience According To NASA Astronaut

Their interviews were conducted by KFMB-TV and Spaceflight Now, with the questions asked ranging from the crew's experience on board the SpaceX Crew Dragon and working and living on the ISS.

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KFMB-TV's Heather Myer's kicked off the discussion when she asked the astronauts about their journey on the Crew Dragon.

In response, Kimbrough replied:

It was a fantastic ride I think all of us were sitting on the launchpad for a couple of hours getting ready to go, preparing mentally and somewhat physically as well. And then when the engines lit big smiles came across all of our faces as we felt that power lift us from Earth up into space. It was an incredible ride for the first eight and a half to nine minutes while the boosters were lit. And a lot of G forces, a lot of different sensations our bodies were going through. And then after nine minutes, we were in space, floating around. So pretty cool experience.

Stephen Clark of Spaceflight Now then took over, with his questions being more pointed than Myers'. He began by asking Kimbrough about the differences in his experiences onboard the Falcon 9, the Space Shuttle and the Russian Soyuz.

To this, the astronaut explained that the Crew Dragon lay in the middle of the Shuttle and Soyuz in terms of the smoothness of the journey.

He explained that:

I've had a few people ask me that. It's a great question. I think it's kind of somewhere between the two. Shuttle to me're shaking around, rocking and rolling a lot more. Soyuz was super smooth and the Dragon was kind of somewhere in between. So it was all together a smooth ride uphill, but there were a few kind of rumblings and bumps along the way. Some great G forces we got to feel. So I kind of put it in between the two rides of the Soyuz and the Shuttle.

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough works with 'astrobees' Honeybee and Bumble Bee to help him with inventory and other Tass on the ISS. Image: Shane Kimbrough/Twitter

Clark then moved forward by asking the astronauts how the Falcon 9's Merlin Vacuum engine compares to the Space Shuttle. This engine is present on the second (upper) stage of the rocket and is responsible for propelling payload and astronauts into space after the first stage of the rocket separates.

According to Kimbrough:

Yeah that was pretty awesome. So after the first stage engines shut off we had a few seconds of weightlessness and then the MVac [MERLIN VACUUM ENGINE] kicked in and it was a really nice kick in the pants so to speak.  We got kind of sucked back in our seats and we got to feel that great acceleration for the next six minutes or so.

The reporter then asked about the habitability difference between the Crew Dragon, the Space Shuttle and the Soyuz.

Kimbrough replied by highlighting that spending time in the capsule for extended periods of time is difficult.

His full response to the question was:

That's a tough one there. I mean we've had the luxury of taking a day or so to get here. Just about a day for us. I think they're going to work on getting that down a little bit to less than a day. But certainly, Inspiration4 is going to be living in it for two to five days I think is the current plan. I would not want to be living in there for more than a few days personally with a bunch of people in there. I'm getting the privilege of living in there right while it's attached to the space station because we don't have the sleep stations. But I think orbiting around in it four, you know people or so in there two to three days will probably be about the limit for me personally.

The Crew Dragon's spaciousness over the Soyuz has also been discussed previously by NASA astronaut Shannon Walker. She flew to the ISS as part of the space agency's first operational crewed flight to the space station last year, and when questioned in December by SpaceX's president Ms. Gwynne Shotwell about the differences in flying on the Dragon and the Soyuz,  replied that:

. . . .It's a little bit more spacious than a Soyuz. My ride to the station on the Soyuz was two days, and so only a little over a day was much better. But you have more room to move about in on the Dragon.

The Inspiration4 is SpaceX's first private crewed mission for the Crew Dragon, and it will fly a civilian crew in Earth orbit. It will take to the skies in September, using the capsule which flew astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi to the ISS last year under NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

For more details on what it's like inside the Crew Dragon as it returns to Earth, read Astronauts Lay Bare SpaceX Crew Dragon Flight And Journey Experience.

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