SpaceX unveils spacecraft to ferry astronauts to space

This April 20, 2014 image from Nasa TV shows the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft berthed to the Earth-facing port of the International Space Station's Harmony node. -- PHOTO: AFP
This April 20, 2014 image from Nasa TV shows the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft berthed to the Earth-facing port of the International Space Station's Harmony node. -- PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - SpaceX unveiled on Thursday a new spacecraft that it hopes will one day allow Americans to once again carry astronauts to the International Space Station, an ability currently limited to Russia.

The Dragon V2 "is really a big leap forward in technology," said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in Hawthorne, California where the new model was shown to a jam-packed press conference.

The white Dragon V2 looks like a slimmer, sleeker version of the gumdrop-shaped Dragon capsule that in 2012 became the first private spacecraft to carry supplies to the ISS in back.

The spacecraft has room for seven astronauts.

Musk said it will be able to "land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter."

Ever since the US space shuttle program ended in 2011, the world's astronauts have depended on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to reach the ISS, an orbiting outpost built and maintained by more than a dozen countries.

SpaceX has said its crew capsule may be able to reach the ISS with astronauts aboard by 2017.