OCT 08, 2015 4:50 PM PDT

Even Without A Contract From NASA, Sierra Nevada Begins Second Phase Of Testing For Dream Chaser Space Plane

WRITTEN BY: Andrew J. Dunlop
If NASA had decided to make a next generation of the space shuttle, it probably would have looked a lot like the Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser. The Dream Chaser is basically a mini shuttle. It has wings, and lands on a runway, like an airplane. Though they did not win a contract from NASA to ferry crew and cargo to the ISS, as did SpaceX and Boeing, Sierra Nevada is confident in their design, and they are pressing on, into the second stage of the development of their space plane. The testing will begin in early 2016 at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center, located in the Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California.

Technicians with the sub-orbital version of SNC's Dream Chaser
It’s a little difficult to figure out why the Dream Chaser wasn’t chosen by NASA to service the ISS. It is an extremely capable, versatile, and thoughtfully designed craft. It runs on non-toxic and non-explosive fuel, meaning that, unlike the Space Shuttle, it can be handled, serviced, reloaded, and relaunched without any need for decontamination. This results in a very fast turnaround time between missions. Though Dream Chaser is designed to glide to a landing, it’s rocket motors are throttleable and restartable, meaning the vehicle is capable of powered flight if the need arises. The Dream Chaser can be piloted or operate autonomously. It can carry up to seven astronauts, or two astronauts and cargo, using a cargo module, to the ISS, or other destinations. The cargo module has two uses: It can ferry cargo on the flight up to the ISS, and then, once it arrives it can be filled with the ISS’ garbage. During its re-entry, Dream Chaser can jettison the cargo module allowing it to safely burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Dream Chaser will also be capable of boosting the ISS’ orbit, and it can be used as a lifeboat in the event of an emergency on board the space station.



There are currently two versions of the Dream Chaser. One, the  atmospheric engineering test article (or ETA) is a successor to the very first space shuttle, Enterprise, in that it is not designed to go into orbit. Rather, the ETA is a testbed for trying out new design features within the atmosphere. While Sierra Nevada is using the ETA for testing and development, they are simultaneously developing the orbital version of the Dream Chaser. Lockheed Martin, slated to manufacture the orbital vehicle, recently completed the first cabin assembly for orbital version of the Dream Chaser. It’s made out of composite material, which is both strong and light-weight.

Proud of his company’s creation, Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada's space systems division declared, ”Upon completion, the Dream Chaser orbital vehicle will be the most advanced composite structure ever built. We look forward to Dream Chaser becoming the world leader in this area and to its first orbital flight.”


Source: Space.com
About the Author
  • Andrew J. Dunlop lives and writes in a little town near Boston. He's interested in space, the Earth, and the way that humans and other species live on it.
You May Also Like
OCT 27, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 27, 2019
NASA Considers Building Space Telescopes in Space to Reduce Cost and Risk
Space telescopes are particularly important pieces of equipment, especially for astrophysicists, planetary scientists, and other space professionals that s...
DEC 03, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 03, 2019
Wanna Venture Outside of the Solar System? Try a "Skyhook"
Rocket engines are expensive to build, and their speed and the distance of travel are also limited by their own weight and the fuel they carry. But there&#...
DEC 06, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 06, 2019
The most memorable space events of 2019
This year was one of the most exciting ones for all of the space geeks around the world. Many discoveries and once in a lifetime events happened...
DEC 30, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 30, 2019
How SpaceX's Crew Dragon Will Operate, From Start to Finish
It’s no mystery by now that SpaceX is working hard to earn the right to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station via NASA’s Commerci...
JAN 20, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
JAN 20, 2020
Oldest Materials on Earth - They Predate Our Solar System
In 1969, a meteorite crashed through the sky and landed near the small town of Murchison, Australia. Had shattered into many fragments after its dramatic l...
FEB 09, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 09, 2020
NASA's Christina Koch Returns From Space After Shattering Records
NASA astronaut Christina Koch set a new record at the end of 2019 when she spent more consecutive days in space than any other female astronaut before her....
Loading Comments...