Sierra Space has rolled out its first Dream Chaser spaceplane, called “Tenacity,” that will be used to ferry cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS) after it is shipped to NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility for environmental testing in the coming weeks.
Under development since 2004, Dream Chaser has gone through a complicated path from concept to flight. Originally, its Space Shuttle-like design was intended to not only carry cargo, but passengers to the International Space Station and then return to Earth to land like a conventional aircraft. However, it lost out in competition in both these roles to SpaceX, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman and was relegated to later cargo missions while the spaceplane’s technology was improved.
Today, the first space-worthy craft, Tenacity, is at Sierra Space’s facility in Louisville, Colorado and will ship to NASA in a few weeks. When it enters service it will be the only flying runway-capable spacecraft. Though it is currently funded under a NASA contract, the Dream Chaser will also be available to other domestic and international customers for trips to low Earth orbit.
With its winged design, propane/nitrous oxide propulsion, and silica-based tiles to protect it from the high temperatures generated during autonomous reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, the Dream Chaser can keep reentry acceleration down to 1.5 g, which protects fragile cargoes like crystals and some pharmaceuticals from harm. According to the company, it has a service life of a minimum of 15 missions.
The Dream Chaser is scheduled to lift off sometime in April 2024 atop a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“Today we have arrived at a profound milestone in both our company’s journey and our industry’s future – one that has been years in the making and is shaped by audacious dreaming and tenacious doing,” said Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice. “I am reminded of a comment made by Steve Jobs that every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. I think Dream Chaser is that product. This breakthrough shifts paradigms and redefines space travel. The Dream Chaser is not just a product; it’s a testament to human spirit, determination and the relentless pursuit of what lies beyond.”
Source: Sierra Space