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
NOV 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
The Mystery of the Blue Ring Nebula is Solved
NOV 22, 2020
The Mystery of the Blue Ring Nebula is Solved
In 2004, the Blue Ring Nebula was first identified. It appeared as a faint gas blob with a star at its center and was un ...
DEC 15, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Spiders Build Webs in Space
DEC 15, 2020
Spiders Build Webs in Space
As humans have ventured into space, they have carried some terrestrial life with them, including spiders. Once dreamed u ...
JAN 17, 2021
Space & Astronomy
New Way to Extract Energy from Black Holes
JAN 17, 2021
New Way to Extract Energy from Black Holes
In his theory of general relativity, Einstein predicted that black holes harbor an enormous amount of energy. And now, r ...
APR 17, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Dent in Earth's Magnetic Field Caused by Buried Ancient World
APR 17, 2021
Dent in Earth's Magnetic Field Caused by Buried Ancient World
Researchers from Arizona State University have suggested that two giant blobs of rock cupping the Earth's core are l ...
MAY 21, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Alien Radioactive Element Discovered on Earth for First Time
MAY 21, 2021
Alien Radioactive Element Discovered on Earth for First Time
  Researchers from Australian National University have discovered the first ever extraterrestrial radioactive isoto ...
JUN 05, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Did Heat from Asteroids Provide the Building Blocks for Life on Earth?
JUN 05, 2021
Did Heat from Asteroids Provide the Building Blocks for Life on Earth?
Researchers from Kobe University in Japan have found that heat generated by the impact of small astronomical bodies coul ...
Loading Comments...