MAR 25, 2015 4:26 PM PDT

Sierra Nevada Is Developing A Cargo Variant of the Dream Chaser

WRITTEN BY: Andrew J. Dunlop
Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser, a piloted space plane, was one of the leading contenders in for the NASA contract to ferry cargo and astronauts back and forth to the International Space Station, but last September it was beaten out by SpaceX's Dragon capsule and Boeing's CST-100 capsule. This may, however, not be the end of the road for the Dream Chaser platform. On March 17th Sierra Nevada announced that it is building a new, fully autonomous cargo version of the Dream Chaser. "This represents really the next step in the evolution of Dream Chaser," said Mark Sirangelo, head of Sierra Nevada's Space Systems division, "not only in terms of its capabilities and what it's going to be able to do, but also in its design and its enhancements."

Artist's Conception of Sierra Nevada's DCCS

Why would Sierra Nevada go to the trouble of trying to re-purpose the Dream Chaser platform, when Space X and Orbital ATK already have the current NASA contracts? Because last year NASA started requesting proposals for the next round of cargo ships to re-supply the ISS from 2018 through 2024, called Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2). Sierra Nevada, along with Space X, Boeing, Lockheed Martin for this new, lucrative contract. NASA's CRS-2 contract could yield the winning company or companies as much as 14 billion dollars. NASA is set to announce the winner, or winners of the contract this June. Sirangelo thinks the Dream Chaser Cargo System (DCCS), Sierra Nevada's entry should be one of the winners. "We believe it's the best cargo solution that currently exists," he says.

Why does he think that the DCCS is a superior platform? Because Dream Chaser is much more than just a disposable capsule. It is a full fledged mini space shuttle. It blasts off on top of a rocket and lands on a runway like an airplane. And it is completely re-usable.

Sierra Nevada had been working on the manned version of the Dream Chaser for over ten years. The cargo variant, the DCCS, is similar in many ways to the manned version, but there are several important differences. Unlike the original Dream Chaser, the DCCS has foldable wings, which will allow it to fit inside a 16.5-foot-wide (5 meter) launch fairing. This will make the DCCS compatible with all of NASA's current orbital rockets. The DCCS will feature new software that will make it fully autonomous. There will also be a cargo module added to the rear of the craft, which will be used to bring extra cargo up to the ISS, and be used to dispose of up to 10,472 lbs. (4,750 kg) of garbage from the ISS by being jettisoned from DCCS to burn up in the earth's atmosphere. The DCCS will be capable of carrying 12,125 lbs. (5,500 kilograms) of cargo up to the ISS, and bringing 3,858 lbs. (1,750 kg) back to Earth.

Sierra Nevada still wants a piloted version of the Dream Chaser to fly at some point, and according to Sirangelo, the creation of the DCCS could help to make that a reality. "Everything that we're doing in this vehicle," he says, "is transferable to a future crewed vehicle. ... We actually think we're enhancing it and accelerating that crew capability."

"There are many capsules in the world," says Sirangelo, but "there's really only one vehicle like Dream Chaser that's commercially available right now. ... None of us know what the next decade of space is going to be like, and having capabilities like this available continuously [keeps] our options open."


(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 08, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 08, 2019
Why the Search for Other Planets is So Captivating
Astronomers are continuously searching for other planets, whether those reside right here in the solar system with us, or far away in another stellar syste...
NOV 12, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 12, 2019
Did You Miss the Mercury Transit? Here's NASA's Footage
Monday was a particularly exciting day for amateur astronomers. It was the day that the planet Mercury performed a visible transit across the Sun’s s...
DEC 02, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 02, 2019
The Air Force's X-37B Plane Spent 780 Days in Space, But Why?
The United States Air Force regularly conducts top-secret missions and science experiments on behalf of the federal government. One of the military branch&...
DEC 16, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 16, 2019
Here's What Would Happen if the Earth Stopped Orbiting the Sun
The Earth orbits the Sun once every 365 days, or one full year. It does this while whizzing through the vacuum of space at break-neck speeds of up to 110,0...
DEC 18, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 18, 2019
Physics in Peril? (Part II) - Lost in the "Darkness"
Not many share the same antagonistic view with Sabine Hossenfelder, the physicist who associates the current awkward state of physical science with theoret...
FEB 03, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 03, 2020
How NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft is Studying Mars' Ionosphere
If you ever listen to the radio and experience a phenomenon in which the broadcast sounds garbled or as if another radio station is attempting to play over...
Loading Comments...