NASA and Sierra Space are moving closer to the first-ever flight of the Dream Chaser spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). The uncrewed cargo spaceplane is set to embark on its demonstration mission in 2024 as part of NASA’s commercial resupply services.
The Dream Chaser cargo system is composed of two main components: the Dream Chaser spacecraft and the Shooting Star cargo module. The spacecraft is a modified version of the HL-20 spacecraft developed at NASA’s Langley Research Center. It can be reused up to 15 times, making it a cost-effective solution for future missions. On the other hand, the Shooting Star module is designed to facilitate the delivery and disposal of cargo to and from the ISS.
To launch the Dream Chaser system, a ULA Vulcan Centaur rocket will be employed, taking off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Prior to its actual utilization, in-orbit demonstrations will be conducted to certify the Dream Chaser for future missions. These demonstrations will comprise far-field demonstrations, which will take place outside the vicinity of the space station, and near-field demonstrations, which will be performed closer to the station.
The maiden flight of the Dream Chaser is eagerly anticipated as it is expected to deliver over 7,800 pounds of cargo to the ISS. Furthermore, it is designed to stay attached to the station for a prolonged period of up to 75 days in subsequent missions, allowing for the delivery of even larger quantities of cargo, peaking at approximately 11,500 pounds. Not only will the spacecraft transport supplies to the ISS, but it will also play a crucial role in returning over 3,500 pounds of cargo and disposing of over 8,700 pounds of trash during reentry.
Once its mission is complete, the Dream Chaser will undergo a controlled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, utilizing its gliding capabilities to safely land on a runway at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility. This successful landing will mark yet another milestone for Sierra Space, formerly known as Sierra Nevada Corporation, as the company was selected by NASA in 2016 to be the third commercial cargo resupply spacecraft provider for the International Space Station.
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