Dream Chaser, The Revolutionary Spaceplane Set to Transform ISS Resupply Missions

Stargazer Daily
8 Min Read
Credit: Sierra Space

Sierra Space and NASA are moving forward with prep work for the inaugural voyage of the Dream Chaser spacecraft to the International Space Station. Set up to launch in 2024, the unmanned cargo spaceplane will certainly take on a demonstration objective as part of NASA’s industrial resupply solutions, supplying essential cargo to the orbiting center.

Dream Chaser

The Sierra Space-manufactured Dream Chaser cargo system is made up of two basic elements: the Dream Chaser spacecraft and the Shooting Star cargo module. With its capability to be recycled approximately 15 times, the Dream Chaser spacecraft is created as a lifting body spacecraft, originated from the HL-20 spacecraft created at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Shooting Star, the spaceplane’s dedicated cargo module, is tailored to help with the transportation and disposal of both pressurized and unpressurized cargo to and from the space station. After fulfilling its function, the component is disposed of prior to the spaceplane’s descent back to Earth.

The Dream Chaser system will certainly launch its trip with its wings put within a protective five-meter covering, called a fairing, which is safely secured to a ULA Vulcan Centaur rocket at Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. When the rocket soars into the sky, the fairing shields the spacecraft from the intense heat and rubbing produced during ascent.

When the spacecraft gets in orbit, the fairing is thrown out, and the solar panels attached to the freight component and wings of Dream Chaser are unravelled, allowing them to harness the sunlight’s energy. In the event of a launch delay, Dream Chaser is designed to be swiftly prepared for a succeeding launch effort, calling for just 24 hours to prepared the spacecraft for flight.


Sierra Space’s preliminary trip will involve a collection of in-orbit demonstrations targeted at verifying the Dream Chaser spacecraft’s performance and readiness for future objectives. Teams from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the Dream Chaser Mission Control Center in Louisville, Colorado, will keep a close eye on the flight from the ground. When the spacecraft is released, Sierra Space trip controllers will maintain control up until it lands and is turned over to the Sierra Space ground operations group at NASA Kennedy.

Before entering the technique ellipsoid, a 4-by-2-by-2-kilometer undetectable border bordering the space station, Dream Chaser will certainly perform a series of demonstrations outside the area of the orbiting research laboratory. These demos are necessary prior to the spacecraft can sign up with forces with the NASA group at the Mission Control Center in Houston and include displaying its mindset control, translational maneuvers, and abort abilities.

The spaceport station will certainly be the website of near-field demonstrations, which should take place in close proximity. These presentations will consist of using LIDAR sensing units and reacting to commands from the spaceport station. The spacecraft will certainly also exercise pulling back from the terminal when advised and keeping a consistent range, initially at 1,083 feet (330 meters), after that 820 feet (250 meters), and finally, 98 feet (30 meters) away. Complying with the effective completion of these demos, Dream Chaser will then come close to the space station.

Dream chaser
Credit: Sierra Space

As Dream Chaser nears the orbiting lab, it will certainly come to a stop at a distance of concerning 38 feet (11.5 meters) from the spaceport station. At this point, a crew participant on the terminal will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture a component on Dream Chaser’s cargo component, and afterwards groups on the ground will protect the freight component to one of the Earth-facing ports on either the Unity or Harmony module.

On its inaugural trip to the International Space Station, Dream Chaser is set to transfer in excess of 7,800 pounds of cargo. Future goals will see Dream Chaser connected to the station for up to 75 days, providing a maximum of 11,500 pounds of cargo. The spacecraft permits cargo loading as late as 1 day prior to launch. In Addition, Dream Chaser can restore over 3,500 extra pounds of cargo and experiment examples to Earth, while taking care of over 8,700 extra pounds of trash during reentry using its cargo module.

After investing around 45 days docked at the spaceport station, Dream Chaser will certainly be removed utilizing Canadarm2. The spacecraft can return to Earth as promptly as 11-15 hours after departure, with everyday touchdown chances offered if weather conditions are satisfied. Fantasize Chaser’s landing needs include wind speeds of less than 17.2 miles per hour (15 knots) crosswinds, 23 mph (20 knots) headwinds, and 11.5 mph (10 knots) tailwinds. Additionally, the group will check for unfavorable climate condition such as thunderstorms, lightning, and rain within a 20-mile span of the runway or 10 miles along the approach course. Comprehensive flight rules will certainly lead controllers in figuring out whether touchdown chances are secure and practical.

Twenty-six response control system thrusters on Dream Chaser will be utilized to initiate the spacecraft’s deorbit maneuver. Following reentry into Earth’s ambience, Dream Chaser will touch down on a runway at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch and Landing Facility, matching the touchdown style of NASA’s space capsule program. This touchdown will note the first time a spacecraft has actually landed at the center because the last space capsule mission in 2011.

After Dream Chaser has actually touched down and been deactivated, the Sierra Space landing crew will certainly deliver it to the Space System Processing Facility for a collection of inspections, dumping of any kind of remaining NASA haul, and first preparations for its next goal.

In 2016, NASA selected Sierra Space, formerly known as Sierra Nevada Corporation, as the third private business to offer cargo transport solutions to the International Space Station, signing up with SpaceX and Orbital ATK in supporting the station’s logistical demands.

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