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NASA clears the sky for Dream Chaser space plane

NASA clears the sky for Dream Chaser space plane

Stephen Kuper

NASA has officially approved the Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) ‘Dream Chaser’ commercial space cargo plane for full-scale production ahead of its first mission to take place in 2020.

The NASA approval comes after the Dream Chaser spacecraft passed a key milestone for NASA's Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract, validating design performance and clearing the way for full spacecraft production.

The milestone marks completion of Integration Review 4 (IR4) demonstrating NASA’s confidence in the safety and maturity of Dream Chaser’s design.

John Curry, program director for CRS-2 under SNC’s space systems business area, said, "NASA's acknowledgement that SNC has completed this critical milestone and its approval of full production of the first Dream Chaser spacecraft is a major indication we are on the right path toward increasing vital science return for the industry."

Subject matter experts from NASA and SNC thoroughly reviewed the Dream Chaser spacecraft design and its integrated performance with launch, ground and flight elements. Based on system capabilities, design maturity and the extensive data products presented, SNC and NASA jointly concluded that the Dream Chaser program was ready to move to full-scale spacecraft manufacturing and testing.

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Many critical parts of the orbital vehicle are already complete, built and being tested, including major structural components, thermal protection system tiles and avionics hardware.

With the success of IR4, these components are now being integrated into the orbital vehicle assembly at SNC’s space systems facilities in Louisville, Colorado.

"We are one step closer to the Dream Chaser spacecraft’s first orbital flight. This comprehensive review approved moving the Dream Chaser program into the production phase so we can get Dream Chaser to market as a critical space station resupply spacecraft as soon as possible," said Fatih Ozmen, co-owner and chief executive of SNC. 

The Dream Chaser will perform at least six missions to provide cargo resupply, disposal and return services to the International Space Station under NASA’s CRS-2 contract.

The spacecraft is capable of delivering up to 5,500 kilograms of pressurised and unpressurised cargo and returns over 1,850 kilograms of cargo with a gentle runway landing. The spacecraft also provides about 3,400 kilograms of disposal capability each mission via the cargo module, which burns up in the atmosphere after separation from the Dream Chaser winged vehicle.

With more than 25 years of space heritage working with the US government, commercial customers, and the international market, SNC has participated in more than 450 successful space missions and delivered 4,000+ systems, subsystems and components around the world.

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