Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has announced that NASA has given its Authority to Proceed with the Dream Chaser spacecraft’s first cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
In a statement released on Feb. 7 2017, Fatih Ozmen, owner and CEO of SNC stated, “SNC has been successfully completing critical design milestones as approved by NASA, and having a timetable for the first launch is another important step achieved for us. The team has worked so hard to get to this point and we can’t wait to fulfill this mission for NASA.”
The spacecraft’s first mission will see it provide a cargo resupply to the International Space Station and return to Earth.
Graphic rendering of Dream Chaser spacecraft on orbit. Image Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation
This latest announcement follows a successful free-flight test in January which satisfied yet another NASA milestone. The free-flight proved that the spacecraft would be capable to safely return cargo to Earth utilizing a runway landing.
If it flies, the 2020 launch will be the first of six missions that NASA has contracted with SNC under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. Those contracts were awarded in January of 2016. SpaceX and Orbital-ATK, who were the only two companies awarded resupply services under the CRS-1 contracts, also saw their agreements with the space agency extended under CRS-2.
SNC had originally bid for crew launch services using its crew rated version of the Dream Chaser but they lost out to SpaceX’s Crew Dragin and Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft.
SNC has already signed launch contracts with United Launch Alliance (ULA) for Dream Chaser’s first two missions. ULA will use its Atlas V launch vehicle to loft the spacecraft to orbit.
NASA has approved a 2020 launch window for Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft.
The Dream Chaser Cargo system utilizes wings which fold up near the spacecraft’s body allowing it to fit inside the protective payload fairing of almost any launch vehicle currently in service.
The cargo version of the Dream Chaser is designed to deliver up to 12,125 lbs (5,500 kg) of pressurized and un-pressurized cargo to the orbiting lab. It can stay attached to the station for extended periods of time so cargo can both be loaded and unloaded, as well as allowing the crew to utilize the pressurized area of the vehicle to perform science experiments.
Experiments that require a constant power source can be powered by the Dream Chaser spacecraft from launch until landing. Upon departure from the station the vehicle is designed to be able to return up to 4,409 lbs (2,000 kg) of cargo back to Earth. Upon the completion of its mission, Dream Chaser would then perform a low-g re-entry descending down for a landing at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. This type of landing is needed to return sensitive payloads and to allow quick access to critical science experiments.
“The Dream Chaser is going to be a tremendous help to the critical science and research happening on the space station,” said Mark Sirangelo, executive vice president of SNC’s Space Systems via a company-issued release. “Receiving NASA’s Authority to Proceed is a big step for the program. We can’t wait to see the vehicle return to Kennedy Space Center to a runway landing, allowing immediate access to the science payloads being returned from the station.”
Tagged: Commercial Resupply Services Dream Chaser International Space Station Lead Stories Sierra Nevada Corporation
Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.
LOUISVILLE – Sierra Nevada has NASA’s okay for its Dream Chaser spacecraft’s first mission.
The Nevada-based company received NASA’s “authority to proceed” with a maiden launch of Dream Chaser to the space station sometime in 2020. The space agency uses private partners to ship supplies to the station.
NASA issued what’s called an Authority to Proceed this week, setting Dream Chaser’s first launch window for late 2020. Sierra Nevada will build the spaceship in Louisville, where concepts and dreams are turning into deadlines.
Dream Chaser’s first mission will be to resupply the International Space Station. For Sierra Nevada, the goal will be to prove the reliability of what engineers in Colorado have been working on for years.
“In our vision, spaceships should have wings and come back to a runway,” Sierra Nevada’s principal systems engineer Kathy Benzini said. “The space shuttle introduced a new era of spacecraft and we’d like to continue that going forward towards the future, instead of looking back to some of our older designs.”
Dream Chaser will be the only vehicle flying to and from the ISS that has wings and lands on a runway like an airplane. It’s a gentle landing compared to other spacecraft used today.
“What it means is that we can bring cargo back to a runway and give it to the scientific providers as soon as possible, within hours of our landing,” Benzini said. “There aren’t any shocks that the science equipment would experience.”
Sierra Nevada said each Dream Chaser will be able to fly at least 15 missions. And it can land on any commercial runway, anywhere in the world. The cargo-only version has no windows and includes a cargo module on the tail end of the vehicle.
If NASA approves manned missions for Dream Chaser, the spacecraft could carry up to seven people. For now, just getting to launch day at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida would be a dream come true.
“I think to actually see our vehicle fly will be just an unbelievable experience,” Benzini said.