Sierra Space completes construction of the first Dream Chaser spaceplane

Sierra Space announced the completion of the assembly of the first copy of the Dream Chaser spacecraft. It is planned to launch it to the ISS in the spring of next year. 

Dream Chaser project history

The Dream Chaser spaceplane was originally developed as a vehicle for delivering crews to the ISS. However, in 2014, it lost the final stage of selection under the Commercial Crew Development program to the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon spacecraft.

The first assembled copy of the Dream Chaser spacecraft. Source: Sierra Space

After that, the designers decided to rework the concept of the device, turning it into an unmanned supply vehicle. It turned out to be a good solution. In 2016, the Dream Chaser project became one of the winners of the second phase of the Commercial Resupply Services 2 program. It was guaranteed that there would be at least seven cargo missions to the ISS.

Dream Chaser spaceplane design

The Dream Chaser body is made of composite materials with ceramic thermal protection. The spacecraft will be launched into orbit using the new Vulcan carrier. The spaceplane has folding wings, due to which it can be installed not on the side of the launch vehicle but on top of the last stage (to improve aerodynamics, it will be covered with a fairing).

Dream Chaser will be able to deliver five tons of supplies to the ISS in a sealed compartment and up to 500 kg more in an unsealed one. When returning to Earth, it will land on the runway like an airplane, carrying up to 1850 kg of cargo on board. Another 3,400 kg can be placed in a compartment that will separate before the spaceplane enters the atmosphere and will burn up in it. 

Dream Chaser’s first flight date

In the next few weeks, the first assembled spaceplane will be sent to NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility for testing in a vacuum chamber. If they do not identify any problems, the spacecraft will then be transported to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, where it will be prepared for launch. 

Presentation of the first assembled copy of the Dream Chaser spacecraft. Source: Sierra Space

Sierra Space does not disclose the exact launch date of the first Dream Chaser spacecraft, but it is expected that it will take place in March. The date will depend not only on the readiness of the Dream Chaser but also on the Vulcan rocket. The launch of the spaceplane will be the second mission for the new carrier. Its first flight is scheduled for December, it is supposed to send Astrobotic’s Peregrine spacecraft to the Moon.

It is worth noting that Sierra Space does not lose hope of eventually returning to the original plan and building a manned version of the spaceplane. It is assumed that it can find application in the US Space Forces, replacing the X-37B drone.

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