The Dragon is a reusable spacecraft developed by SpaceX, an American private space transportation company based in Hawthorne, California. During its uncrewed maiden flight in December 2010, Dragon became the first commercially-built and operated spacecraft to be recovered successfully from orbit. On 25 May 2012, an uncrewed variant of Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to successfully rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS).
SpaceX is contracted to deliver cargo to the ISS under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services program, and Dragon is scheduled to begin regular cargo flights in September 2012. Additionally, NASA awarded SpaceX a Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) contract in April 2011. The Dragon is planned to carry up to seven astronauts, or a combination of personnel and cargo, to and from low Earth orbit. The Dragon's heat shield is furthermore designed to withstand Earth re-entry velocities from potential lunar and Martian spaceflights.