Sierra Nevada Corporation targets late 2020 for first Dream Chaser resupply mission
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.”
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.
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.”
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.