File this one under “things not going as planned”, SpaceX announced at a recent conference that the planned Crewed Dragon vehicle (also known as Dragon V2) which will be used for SpaceX launched manned missions to the International Space Station and also as part of their planned Mars missions will no longer use propulsive landings – that is, the vehicle will not land using special engines on the vehicle itself to come to a powered landing as originally planned. Instead, the old parachute into water landing method is what Dragon V2 will do, at least for the foreseeable future, whenever it actually does begin flying.
If you think about how the Apollo Lunar Module landed on the Moon, then the idea Dragon V2 was going to use makes total sense, and was actually one of the most sane sounding propositions from SpaceX! Hell, the idea works, in practice, amazingly, for the Falcon 9 boosters that the damned Dragon launches on, why then wouldn’t it work out well for the crew vehicle?
Elon hasn’t said directly, but I do feel that if they canceled this element of Dragon V2, that they did it after feeling certain it was better to nix it (if only for now) than to go with it as a mandatory feature.
That, however, says quite a bit about how the plans of SpaceX are not necessarily reality – this also effectively puts the Mars-landing version of Dragon, known as the “Red Dragon” into purgatory, as this was how it was to land on Mars.
Dragon will be keeping the engines on the crew module itself, something I think it somewhat risky to do (I’d prefer them on the “trunk” much like how the Service Propulsion System was on the Service Module of the Apollo Spacecraft) but I don’t object outright to the idea, I only would have done it a more traditional way – major rocket motors right next to the crew just seems risky to me, but then again the entire Space Shuttle worked on a similar principle, so, eh…
Back on point though, this change after it being such a focus of Dragon V2 shows that not every plan SpaceX has comes to pass as intended, if even at all. The company isn’t perfect, and no matter how much you may like an idea they have, it doesn’t mean it will actually happen, unlike how the “cult of SpaceX” seems to think everything they do will work exactly as marketed. To think such is insane.