Make some space for the Dream Chaser, the newest commercial cargo plane, ready for service. NASA has given the green light to Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to officially start mass producing the ‘Dream Chaser.’ The Dream Chaser is a commercial cargo plane specifically made to go into space. The first dream mission has been scheduled for 2020. SNC cleared the Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract and can now begin completely producing the space cargo carrier. These carriers can now carry cargo to the ISS. Let’s explore what this whole dream chaser situation is all about.
How Long Till Dreams Can Be Chased?
Originally, the ‘Dream Chaser,’ was conceptualized for the commercial crew program funded by NASA. However, NASA preferred the designs sent in by SpaceX and Boeing instead. The original Dream Chaser was redesigned and now has many new features. The new version is able to carry cargo weighing up to 5,500 kgs (12,125 lbs) up to the ISS and come back with 1,850 kgs (4078 lbs) of cargo back to Earth. It also has foldable wings.
Out of three companies, including Orbital ATK and SpaceX, SNC received a contract in 2016 for commercial cargo to be sent to the ISS by NASA. In this contract, each corporation is guaranteed a minimum of 6 ISS delivery missions.
Some components of the complete Dream Chaser design have been produced as well as tested already. SNC’s Space Exploration Systems VP, Steve Lindsey said in a conference in October 2018 that he was expecting the major part of the first Dream Chaser to be assembled and tested by October 2019.
Features of the Dream Chaser
The Dream Chaser is basically a multi-mission spacecraft that has been specifically designed to transport cargo and crew to destinations with low-earth orbit (LEO) just like where the ISS is situated.
The Dream Chaser showcases third-generation design and is 9 meters long, approximately ¼ of the length of traditional space shuttle orbiters. The dream chaser spacecraft contains a cargo bay which is spacious enough to carry a large cargo, for example, components to be used for the ISS or the Hubble Telescope.
The Dream Chaser will be able to not only deliver cargo and return with disposal but also be able to carry supplies such as science experiments, food and water and return back to Earth efficiently. The Dream Chaser is fully automated, launching, flying and landing by itself. This spacecraft that works on autopilot can be reused more than 15 times. The cargo and crew can be accessed immediately after landing. It is also compatible with commercial runways.
Future Of Space Exploration
Any commercial spacecraft manufacturing is usually hindered by the expensive costs. The more competition there is, the more likely new innovative ideas are likely to emerge. This is because 80% of the expenses are for the launching.
Just a mere year and a half is left till the Dream Chaser is set to chase some dreams and further space exploration.