Contract brings Dream Chaser flights closer to reality
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — In development for more than ten years, the Dream Chaser spaceplane is one step closer to flight. Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has signed a contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to send the spacecraft to orbit.
“ULA is pleased to partner with Sierra Nevada Corporation to launch its Dream Chaser cargo system to the International Space Station in less than three years,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Human and Commercial Systems via a release issued by ULA. “We recognize the importance of on time and reliable transportation of crew and cargo to Station and are honored the Atlas V was selected to continue to launch cargo resupply missions for NASA.”
The contract calls for two Atlas V 552 flights that will boost the Dream Chaser to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of Sierra Nevada’s Cargo Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract with NASA.
The Dream Chaser is currently in testing at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center near Edwards Air Force Base in California. The craft underwent its first ground tow to verify how the vehicle would behave during taxi operations upon returning from space. Additional tests at Armstrong are planned, including glide flights dropped from a helicopter. According to SNC the software on the test vehicle is the operational version that will be used for the orbital vehicles.
The first Atlas V flight of Dream Chaser is currently slated to occur in 2020, launching from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida. The flight will use an Atlas 552 with a dual engine Centaur upper stage. The second flight is scheduled for 2021. The Atlas V was chosen as the launch vehicle in part for its Category 3 certification from NASA (the designation identifies that it may be used for NASA’s most complex and critical missions).
“SNC recognizes the proven reliability of the Atlas V rocket and its availability and schedule performance makes it the right choice for the first two flights of the Dream Chaser,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems. “ULA is an important player in the market and we appreciate their history and continued contributions to space flights and are pleased to support the aerospace community in Colorado and Alabama,” added Sirangelo.
The Dream Chaser was originally part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program but was not selected during the Commercial Crew transportation Capability (CCtCap) phase of the program. Those missions were instead awarded to SpaceX for their Crewed Dragon and Boeing for their CST-100 Starliner capsule.
Dream Chaser is a lifting body design that returns via a runway instead of the more traditional parachute landings of SpaceX and Boeing. The cargo version of the Dream Chaser is designed to carry both pressurized and unpressurized cargo to and from the ISS with return and disposal services.
Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.