source : www.space.com
Sierra Space marked a historic achievement with the completion of its first Dream Chaser spaceplane.
The Colorado-based company announced Thursday (Nov. 2) that construction has completed its first phase Dream chaser vehicle, named “Tenacity.” The spaceplane will be shipped to NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio in the coming weeks for environmental testing.
“Today we have reached a profound milestone in both our company’s journey and the future of our industry – one that has been years in the making and shaped by bold dreaming and tenacious action,” said Tom Vice, CEO of Sierra Space, in a company statement on Thursday. “The Dream Chaser is not just a product; it is a testament to the human spirit, determination and the relentless pursuit of what lies beyond.”
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Sierra Space has a NASA contract to launch robotic resupply missions to the United States International Space Station (ISS) with Dream Chaser. Tenacity will be the company’s first spaceplane to fly to the orbiting laboratory, and that may happen soon: the vehicle could be launched on a test flight to the orbiting laboratory as early as April 2024.
That mission will start at NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida aboard the new United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket and will end with a landing at NASA’s historic Shuttle Landing Facility, which is part of KSC.
The design of the Dream Chaser, according to Sierra Space, is a mix of aesthetics and functionality, not to mention endurance. The craft must repeatedly withstand re-entry temperatures of more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,650 degrees Celsius) while remaining cool to the touch for several minutes after landing, no small feat of engineering.
The company also says that Dream Chaser’s autonomous flight system is designed for at least 15 space missions. The vehicle’s sustainable propulsion and oxidation fuel system should also help reduce the environmental costs of its operations.
Tenacity’s first run will include seven ISS cargo missions, if all goes according to plan. Like SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, Dream Chaser can return experiments and other hardware to Earth from its orbiting laboratory. The other two freighters currently in use – Northop Grumman’s Cygnus and Russia’s Progress vehicle – cannot do that; they burn up upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Robotic resupply missions could be just the beginning for Dream Chaser. In the future, Sierra Space also plans to launch people aboard the vehicle, which looks like a miniature version of NASA’s space shuttle.
source : www.space.com