Dream Chaser Nearing Flight Readiness
Sierra Space's Dream Chaser spaceplane, following in the footsteps of NASA's historic spaceplane designs, has successfully powered up its systems, bringing it one step closer to its inaugural flight. Dream Chaser carries on the legacy of NASA's earlier spaceplane concepts, including the X-20 Dyna-Soar, which was a precursor to the Space Shuttle program.
Dream Chaser, named Tenacity, will soon undergo thermal vacuum tests at NASA's Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio before final preparations take place at Cape Canaveral. Although specific timelines were not provided, Sierra Space aims to ship the Dream Chaser to the test facility in July and expects to be ready for launch by the end of this year.
NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa have recently trained on Dream Chaser's systems, familiarizing themselves with cargo transfer procedures between the spaceplane and the International Space Station (ISS). This training is in preparation for the upcoming Crew-7 mission, scheduled to launch in mid-August and remain aboard the ISS until February 2024.
Initially, Dream Chaser will be deployed for cargo transportation as part of NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract. However, Sierra Space has broader plans for the vehicle, including the development of a crewed version called DC-200. This upgraded variant will have slight modifications to its design. Upon a successful landing of Dream Chaser, Sierra Space intends to establish its own professional astronaut corps, initially comprising 12 to 15 individuals.
Sierra Space's ambitions extend beyond the ISS missions. In collaboration with Blue Origin and other companies, they are actively working on the development of Orbital Reef, a commercial space station. This facility will not only support Sierra Space's own endeavors but will also provide training opportunities for researchers and private astronauts planning to visit Orbital Reef.
Dream Chaser's progress represents another chapter in NASA's spaceplane lineage, embodying the spirit of exploration and innovation that began with the X-20 Dyna-Soar and continues to shape the future of space travel.