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Sierra Nevada selects future Vulcan rocket to launch its mini-space plane into orbit



A private space company, Sierra Nevada Corporation, announced today that its mini-spacecraft, the Dream Chaser, will orbit above the future Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket. The dream catcher has not yet seen the cosmos, but once it becomes operational, it will help ferry cargo and scientific experiments on astronauts aboard the International Space Station between 2021 and 2024.

The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is one of the three NASA-commissioned companies periodically run to the ISS to make sure the station is fully stocked. Cargo missions are part of NASA's Commercial Supply Program, one of several space agency initiatives that aims to land space transport to the private space industry. The other two SpaceX and Northrop Grumman companies are already shipping to the station since 201

2, thanks to an initial round of contracts. But NASA awarded a second round of contracts in 2016, adding SNC to the vendor pool.

In its 2004 development, the Dream Chaser looks a lot like a miniature space shuttle. The plan is for the spacecraft to orbit vertically on a rocket and then meet with the ISS. The astronauts aboard the station will then use the robotic arm to grasp the spacecraft and place it on an available port port. Once all the cargo it carries is unloaded and the mission is completed, the Dream Chaser will detach from the ISS and then reintroduce the Earth's atmosphere. Unlike other space capsules that use parachutes for landing, the Dream Chaser will land much like an airplane, sliding horizontally on the runway.

"It really provides a very unique ability, unlike anything else in the world today and in the foreseeable future," SNC CEO Fatih Ozman said during a press conference announcing Vulcan's election.


Image: ULA

Initially, the company intends to release a Dream Chaser in ULA's Atlas V to transport astronauts to and from the ISS for ISA, and the team even received initial development funding from the space agency to work on the crew, but NASA eventually assigns SpaceX and Boeing contracts for shipment So the SNC decided to rework the Dream Chaser to carry only cargo, and now the company is tasked with firing a total of 12,000 pounds of cargo on at least six NASA delivery missions.

In fact, SNC maintains that the Chaser Dream cargo can carry people if absolutely necessary, since there are some systems for life support and temperature control. "In fact, you could even take people off in an emergency, if necessary," said John Curry, program director for Dream Chaser's load missions. "I'm not saying NASA asked us to do it. I'm just saying the ability is there. So the bridge to the crew is not that far. ”

SNC has other plans for its Dream Chaser, including launching international payloads for Space Nations as early as 2021. But there is still a lot of work to be done. done before the Dream Chaser shoots up the Vulcan rocket. For one thing, the Volcano has to start flying first. ULA has already started bending metal for the rocket, which was extracted from the company's already-running Atlas V rocket. But the first flight is not due until 2021. The dream competitor will fly on the second flight of the Vulcan.

"I was a fan and a supporter and cheerleader of this incredible vehicle from the first moment I saw it," ULA Executive Director Tori Bruno said during a press conference today. "And to be able to make a kind of commercial Vulcan debut with this block of Dream Chaser missions is really exciting."

Meanwhile, SNC tested the Dream Chaser and performed the vehicle for a second free flight in 2017, demonstrating that a spacecraft can land successfully from a super high altitude. The flight was much more successful than the first test in 2013, when the landing gear of the vehicle failed and caused the spacecraft to escape from the runway upon landing. More tests are planned for the coming years as SNC prepares for the first Dream Chaser launch.

Updated August 14, 3:15 pm ET: This article has been updated to include additional information from a SNC press conference. [19659013]
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