Ahead of Dream Chaser’s debut flight next year, Sierra Nevada Corporation announced that the spaceplane will be landing at the former Shuttle Landing Facility when it returns from its demonstration stay at the International Space Station (ISS).
Dream Chaser is a reusable spaceplane produced by Sierra Nevada Corporation. It is designed to not only transport cargo but also humans to low earth orbit (LEO), which includes the ISS. With its fully autonomous flight and landing capabilities, paired with its goal of being highly reusable, Dream Chaser has the potential to become an important part of the ever-growing LEO market.
Sierra Nevada Corporation took over the Dream Chaser program when they acquired SpaceDev, a space technologies company, in October of 2008 for $38 million. Flight tests began with two captive tests using ETA Eagle which was a prototype vehicle. The first of these tests was in May 2012 and another in August 2013, both of which were a success. In October of 2013, ETA Eagle had its first drop test. Just before landing, one of the landing gear failed to deploy which caused the vehicle to skid off of the runway in a cloud of dust. Since then ETA Eagle took its last flight, a second drop test, in November 2017 which was a complete success.
Dream Chaser is capable of carrying 5,500 kg (12,125 lbs) of pressurized and non-pressurized cargo to the ISS. This is slightly less than what SpaceX’s Dragon 2 cargo variant can carry (6,400 kg / 14109 lbs) but also slightly more than what Northrup Grummans’ Cygnus is rated for (3,500 kg / 7716 lbs). Dream Chaser also has the ability to return about 1,750 kg (3858 lbs) of mass back to Earth, compared to Dragon 2 which can bring back 3000 kg (6613 lbs).
Dream Chaser to land at the Shuttle landing facility
On the 4th of May, Sierra Nevada held a live-streamed press conference with representatives from Space Florida, ULA, and NASA to announce that Dream Chaser had been approved to land at the Launch and Landing Facility, historically known as the Shuttle Landing Facility. This will support Dream Chasers Commercial Resupply Services (CRS)-2 missions to the ISS. Dream Chaser is due to make its first flight to the ISS next year before it will make its first landing at the Launch and Landing Facility.
“We’re excited to formally recognize the Launch and Landing Facility as a designated return site for the rapid recovery of International Space Station cargo. With its first mission, planned for 2022, Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser will add an amazing capability to increase the robustness of sustaining the station with supplies, hardware, and experiments for the foreseeable future. It will be a tremendous and visible next step in the commercialization of low Earth orbit as NASA looks toward a sustained human presence in space beyond our home planet.”Bob Cabana, Kennedy Space Center Director.
Seeing as Sierra Nevada often references the Space Shuttle on social media regularly, so this seems to be a very good fit for them. Now all eyes will be on them making their first launch next year.