May 24, 2023

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule is now a Matchbox die

Matchbox's new SpaceX Dragon stands only 2.5 inches tall but has many of the same exterior details as the real-life vehicle.

After flying 10 astronaut crews into Earth orbit, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft is landing — on toy store shelves.Matchbox, the classic die-cast toy brand, has released a miniature model of the commercial space capsule, which on Monday (May 22) brought the private Axiom-2 (AX-2) crew to the International Space Station. The collectible, which was not timed to the mission, is the first product to be released under a multi-year licensing agreement between SpaceX and Mattel, as was announced in July 2022."Well, this happened..." read a recent Matchbox World post to Instagram, which shared photos of the new model inside and out of its box. "The Matchbox SpaceX Dragon Capsule has shipped."The 2.5-inch-tall (6.4 centimeters, or roughly 1:128 scale) Dragon lists for $16.99 each. It includes both the capsule, in which astronauts ride to and from space, and the "trunk," which supports unpressurized payloads and provides power to the entire craft. Matchbox reproduced the look of the solar cells that cover one side of the trunk with a metallic silver and black finish.

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The capsule and trunk do not separate, as they do in real life before returning to Earth, nor does the Dragon's hinged nose cap open to reveal a docking ring or, as the actual craft was once outfitted, a dome window. The capsule has molded hatch lines and raised fairings for the SuperDraco thrusters that power the spacecraft's launch escape system.There are dimples for the Draco maneuvering thrusters and porthole windows, and both details are painted black. The livery includes the United States flag and Dragon and SpaceX logos, but omits the NASA or Axiom Space insignia that have adorned the real vehicle depending on the mission.The capsule is made of metal, while the trunk is formed out of plastic. The trunk is also capped in plastic, on which the trademark and copyright info is embossed.The Matchbox Dragon comes packaged in a display-ready, 5-inch (13 cm) black box with a cut-out window that frames the spacecraft — seemingly floating within a plastic case — against a printed backdrop of the blue and white of Earth and the blackness of space. The front of the box is only marked with the Matchbox and SpaceX logos. The lid is decorated with SpaceX's Dragon logo.

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"Will be showing up at Walmart. Also at some online retailers," the Instagram post read.According to last year's license announcement, more SpaceX-inspired products are to come, including "elevated collectibles" from Mattel Creations, the company's direct-to-consumer platform. No further details have been released.The SpaceX Dragon is not Matchbox's first foray into space-related vehicles. The iconic brand has released NASA-logo adorned trucks dating back decades. Recent Matchbox sets have included NASA's Space Exploration Vehicle and, as part of the Sky Busters line of aircraft, a die-cast version of Sierra Space's Dream Chaser space plane.

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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space" published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.

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