Rockets of Today

— crewed spacecraft —

Speaking of passenger-carrying spacecraft, let’s compare some of the commercially available crew capsules now in use or forthcoming. These are mostly competing for the role of carrying passengers to the International Space Station.

Only two older craft survive from the pre-commercial era: Russia’s venerable Soyuz and its Chinese imitator, Shenzhou. Four commercial craft in various stages of readiness are covered: the Dragon, the Starliner, the Dream Chaser, and the passenger version of Starship, all of them American.

There are also new craft coming from several governments, of which only the USA’s Orion is complete. Others in the works include China’s unnamed next-generation capsule, Russia’s Orel, and India’s Gaganyaan. Finally, we add a brief run-through of uncrewed cargo spacecraft, and a couple of odd cases like the X-37B.

I include pictures, but they are usually artists’ renders rather than photographs, as it’s hard to take a good photo of a craft when it’s actually up in space. Only for the Soyuz did I find a good picture in orbit.

A notable absence from this section is whatever capsule Blue Origin intends to put on top of the New Glenn. As far as we know they have not yet done any work on it. Presumably it will be larger than anything else here except the Starship, and able to seat a lot of people. Even their suborbital New Shepard capsule has 15 cubic meters of interior space and seats six, with large windows. It lands in dirt like a Soyuz, with parachutes and a brief dab of rocket braking just before touchdown, so perhaps the Glenn capsule would do likewise.

ISS visiting vehicles, including Shuttle

— Spacecraft included with current filters: · Soyuz · Shenzhou · Dragon · CST-100 Starliner · Orion · Dream Chaser · Next-Generation · Gaganyaan · Starship · Orel · cargo carriers —