The Mini Space Shuttle

The Dream Chaser Cargo System is currently under development, originally in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew program, but now with the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) to transfer cargo to and from low-Earth orbit for NASA. The Dream Chaser spaceplane can carry up to 5,500 kgs to the International Space Station (ISS) via launches on the Atlas V or Ariane rockets!  

Cargo And Crewed Dream Chaser

The future commercialization of space is critical to drive down costs for access to space in general. Sierra Nevada Corp’s Dream Chaser was originally part of the Commercial Crew Development program for 6 years, but failed to be selected for the final phase. However, in 2016 it was awarded funding and a NASA CRS contract (for a minimum of 6 flights to the ISS) along with SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus capsules.

Commercializing ISS cargo and crew duties allows NASA to focus on other space exploration missions and helps America regain spaceflight capability that it lost when the Space Shuttle fleet was retired in 2011.

Top 10 Fun Facts About The Dragon Cargo Capsule!

  • The Dream Chaser spacecraft has been in development, including significant NASA Shuttle heritage, for over 40 years with one entity or another.
  • There will be two variations of the Dream Chaser; one an autonomous cargo system, the other a piloted spaceplane capable of ferrying up to 7 astronauts!
  • The cargo version accommodates pressurized cargo within the spaceplane in addition to unpressurized cargo in the attached aft module.
  • The spacecraft is roughly ¼ the total length of the Space Shuttle orbiters at 9.0 m (30 ft) and can carry 5,500 kgs (12,125 lbs) to the ISS.
  • The mini Space Shuttle, with its innovative folding-wing design, allows it to be launched inside the flaring of an Atlas V or Ariane 5 rocket.
  • Dream Chaser Cargo will be capable of disposing of 3,250 kg (7,170 lb) of trash and returning cargo to Earth weighing 1,750 kg (3,860 lb).
  • The aft module is jettisoned just before reentry with the Dream Chaser experiencing mild forces (with less than 1.5g) while gliding to a landing on any commercial runway.
  • Dream Chaser Cargo is designed for high reusability (15+ flights), reducing overall cost and providing rapid turnaround for rapid scheduling.
  • The United Nations selected the Dream Chaser as the vehicle that it would contract for at least one mission to give other nations access to space!
  • The first flight of the Dream Chaser into space is expected in 2021.

Exciting times for commercial spaceflight with these new private companies making spaceflight more affordable!

 
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