Space X Unveils 'Dragon V2' Capsule To Take Astronauts To Orbit

The private space travel firm Space X has unveiled its new manned 'Dragon' capsule to take astronauts into orbit.

The 'Dragon V2' is a modified version of the craft Space X already uses to send cargo to the International Space Station on behalf of Nasa.

But the new craft has a much more important cargo in mind - people. It is capable of sending up to seven astronauts into space in one flight - more than twice as many as the Russian Soyuz capsule on which Nasa currently relies.

Unveiled by Space X CEO Elon Musk, the capsule is designed to be able to land itself without having to rely on parachutes or dangerous crash landings.

The capsule has motors and landing legs, and should be able to touch down safely.

It is also designed with a deliberately sci-fi aesthetic - it features sleek rounded panels and gold-and-black seats, far from the utilitarian NASA aesthetic.

Musk wants the craft to make a test flight as soon as next year without a crew, and to send its first astronauts to orbit in 2016.

"It is conceivable that we could do the first flight to orbit," said Musk said. "We would initially do it without people at the end of next year and then the first flight with people would be in 2016 and we think that would be very achievable."

SpaceX is among several companies competing for valuable contracts to take astronauts to space, as Nasa looks to find an alternative to Russian capsules by 2017.