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Dream Chaser Spaceplane Is Ready For Serious Testing At NASA

The "spiritual successor" to the Space Shuttle is scheduled to launch in 2024.

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Tom Hale

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Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

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Dream Chaser

Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser spaceplane, Tenacity, has arrived at NASA's Neil Armstrong Test Facility.

Image credit: NASA, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Dream Chaser Tenacity, a next-generation reusable spaceplane, is set to undergo testing at NASA ahead of its maiden voyage to the International Space Station (ISS) scheduled for 2024.

Sierra Nevada Corporation, the aerospace company behind the spaceplane, has just delivered the first Dream Chaser spaceplane, called Tenacity, to NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio. Here, it will undergo environmental training to ensure it can cope with the extreme conditions of space travel. 

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If it passes all the necessary tests, it will be tasked with carrying out uncrewed cargo supply missions to the ISS, delivering everyday goods and scientific equipment to the astronauts onboard. However, it has a highly customizable design, which means it has the potential for other applications in the future.

Measuring just 9 meters (30 feet) long, the Sierra Nevada Corporation has heralded their space plane as the “spiritual successor” to NASA's iconic Space Shuttle, which completed 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. Although a quarter of the size of the now-retired space shuttles, it too will be launched into space via a rocket. Once in orbit, it will use its fully autonomous navigation to reach the ISS, drop off up to 5,500 kilograms (12,000 pounds) of goods, and return to planet Earth.

Resuability is its main selling point. The Dream Chaser crafts will land on conventional runways, as opposed to crashing into the sea like current ISS delivery vehicles, and can be reflown a minimum of 15 times per system. With greater reusability will come cheaper missions, overcoming a major hurdle for space travel.

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“At Sierra Space, we are ushering in the next industrial revolution with a business and technology platform that provides our customers with a complete turn-key solution offering space as a service,” Tom Vice, CEO of Sierra Space, said in a statement

“Our platform includes Dream Chaser, a revolutionary, highly reusable commercial spaceplane with global runway access, and the first business-ready commercial space station, leveraging the most advanced expandable structural architecture that will exponentially decrease the cost of product development and manufacturing in space,” Vice added.

Plenty of hard work has already gone into the development of the Dream Chaser program. In November 2017, Dream Chaser pulled off its first successful flight test at Edwards Airforce Base in southern California. To test out its flight computers and avionics systems, the uncrewed vessel was hoisted into the air by a heavy-duty helicopter, before gliding down soft and landing on a runaway. 

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Now, with its upcoming tests at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility, engineers and researchers will see whether Dream Chaser can stomach the much more challenging task of launching into space. 


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spaceSpace and Physics
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  • iss,

  • nasa,

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  • space plane,

  • Dream Chaser,

  • Space Shuttle

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