Dream Chaser Space Plane Begins Full Assembly Ahead Of First NASA Mission In 2021 – Forbes

The vehicle will transport cargo to and from the ISS.

A new miniature shuttle called Dream Chaser is moving closer to completion, with the primary structure of the vehicle now constructed and full assembly set to begin for its first planned mission in 2021.

Designed by the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) from Sparks, Nevada, Dream Chaser is a reusable space plane that, at about nine meters long, is roughly four times smaller than NASAs historic Space Shuttle. It is designed to transport cargo, and possibly even crew one day, to the International Space Station (ISS).

At an event in Colorado, where the finished vehicle will be constructed, SNC unveiled the primary structure of the vehicle, which weighs in at 1,000 kilograms and was made with a variety of materials including carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs).

Built by Lockheed Martin, the primary structure is a pressurized structure designed to carry payloads on their way to the ISS. It was built in Fort Worth, Texas but has now been shipped to Louisville, Colorado, where SNC will construct the complete Dream Chaser spacecraft.

Its an extraordinary engineering and manufacturing accomplishment, said Eren Ozmen, chairwoman and president of SNC, in a statement. Our team has been looking forward to this day for a long time so that we can fully assemble Americas spaceplane in preparation for its first mission for NASA.

Dream Chaser is contracted with NASA to complete six missions to the ISS as part of a Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract, with the first expected in late 2021. It will be capable of taking about 5,500 kilograms of cargo, supplies, and experiments to the ISS on each flight.

The vehicle will launch vertically on ULA's upcoming Vulcan Centaur rocket, before gliding back to a runway landing on Earth. This will make it one of only two private uncrewed vehicles in operation that can return equipment from orbit back to Earth, the other being SpaceXs Dragon spacecraft.

According to NASASpaceflight, each Dream Chaser vehicle will be reusable up to 15 times, which could allow for missions beyond the six that have been contracted with NASA. [This] will be useful if SNC gains additional flights via the likely extension of the CRS2 contract if the ISSs lifetime is also extended, they noted.

The vehicle has already completed several tests, including a free flight test in 2017 when it was dropped from a helicopter (although a similar test in 2013 was less successful). NASA approved the space plane for missions to the ISS in December 2018.

Now with final construction of the vehicle set to begin, SNC hope to have the cargo module built by February 2020, the left wing by the end of 2020, and the right wing by January 2021. If all goes to plan, we could then soon see this innovative vehicle take to the skies.

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Dream Chaser Space Plane Begins Full Assembly Ahead Of First NASA Mission In 2021 - Forbes

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