If its nose cone does not close before reentry, would the Dragon capsule be safe after reentry?

The nose cone protects important components like the forward hatch and guidance systems. How damaged would they be after reentry?

Would the crew and cargo experience any problems from the nose cone not closing?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I was wondering about this -- the fact that the nose cone doesn't close until after the deorbit burn is an obvious issue for risk assessment $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2020 at 18:25
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    $\begingroup$ Not an answer, just a guess: a) you would probably no longer be able to reuse the capsule, but b) nothing in there is needed for re-entry (otherwise they couldn't close it), c) it's on the leeward side, d) the cone itself might have undesirable aerodynamic effects, but then again it might just get ripped off. The main worry would probably be plasma entering into areas it shouldn't be, a la Columbia, but that was on the leading edge of the wing, not the leeward side of the vehicle. For example, the Space Shuttle Main Engines were completely unprotected on the leeward side, and they survived. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2020 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ Looking at the capsule, while the bottom is severely charred, the cone actually looks mostly untouched. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2020 at 21:34
  • $\begingroup$ @JörgWMittag the top of the cone looks more toasty than the rest though $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2020 at 21:42

2 Answers 2


Yes and no. If it failed to close, it would damage the systems somewhat. There is a way to manually eject the nose cone, which is what would be done in such a situation. Presumably this would limit reuse and increase the risk, but not ultimately be as risky as having an unclosed nose cone. Note that Crew Dragon reentering with no nose cone is pretty similar to the original Cargo Dragon. I can't find an image for it, but I have heard this is enough of a concern that one of the few manual buttons on Crew Dragon is the ability to release the nose cone.

  • $\begingroup$ Would the nose cone be released mechanically or with pyrotechnics? $\endgroup$ Aug 13, 2020 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ This I do not know. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Aug 13, 2020 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ From @CamilleGoudeseune it seems it's released with pyrotechnics $\endgroup$ Aug 13, 2020 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ Big deal here is it would probably damage the docking system, requiring at the very least a detailed inspection, if not repair or replacement before being certified to fly again. $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Aug 14, 2020 at 17:29

To answer the first question: Crew Dragon would reenter safely. Otherwise there wouldn't be a button in the Pyros section labeled "Jettison nose cone."enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Very cool picture! You're on a roll today. $\endgroup$ Aug 13, 2020 at 21:46

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