Anticipating the dream: NASA begins testing Dream Chaser mini-shuttle

Sierra Space has delivered the Dream Chaser spacecraft and its external cargo bay to the Neil Armstrong Flight Center. There, they will undergo a series of tests to ensure that they are ready for space flight.
Preparing the Dream Chaser spacecraft for vibration tests. Source: Sierra Space

Dream Chaser is designed to deliver cargo to the ISS and back to Earth. Its body is made of composite materials with ceramic heat protection. The spacecraft will be launched into orbit by a rocket, and then it will return on Earth like an airplane.

Altogether, the Dream Chaser can deliver five tonnes of supplies to the ISS in a sealed compartment and up to 500 kg of supplies in a non-sealed compartment. When returning to Earth, the vehicle can return 1850 kg of cargo. Another 3,400 kg can be placed in a compartment that will separate before the spacecraft enters the atmosphere and burn in it (this will allow the ISS to get rid of some of the debris).

The assembly of the first Dream Chaser was completed in November 2023. After that, the device was delivered to the Neil Armstrong Test Center. In the near future, NASA specialists will begin testing it. First, the device will undergo vibration tests that simulate the moment of its launch. After that, it will be placed in a vacuum chamber.

If the tests are successful, the spacecraft will then be transported to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, where it will be prepared for launch. It is scheduled for the first half of 2024.

Based on materials from