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
FEB 04, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
FEB 04, 2020
A Gamma-Ray Burst Like Nothing Else Before
Gamma-ray bursts (GRB) are among the most explosive and energetic celestial events that have been observed by astronomer ...
FEB 17, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 17, 2020
SpaceX Launches More Starlink Satellites, But Fails First Stage Landing
SpaceX launched yet another one of its renowned Falcon 9 rockets on Monday, this time carrying a plethora of its Starlin ...
MAR 08, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 08, 2020
Mars 2020 Rover Will be Named 'Perseverance'
The Mars 2020 rover has been a popular topic of discussion over the past several years, but it has remained rather consp ...
MAR 30, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 30, 2020
If Gravity Has Mass, This Could Explain Dark Energy
The Big Bang purportedly transpired 13.8 billion years ago, and even so, the universe continues to expand even today. Bu ...
APR 27, 2020
Space & Astronomy
APR 27, 2020
Hubble Snaps Gorgeous Photo for 30th Anniversary
The Hubble Space Telescope surpassed its 30th year in space on Friday, April 24th. Being that it’s one of the most ...
MAY 18, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAY 18, 2020
Top Secret Military X-37B Space Plane Heads Back to Outer Space
Not much is known about the United States’ Space Force’s top-secret X-37B military space plane apart from th ...
Loading Comments...