Dream Chaser spaceplanes to launch on Vulcan rocket

An artist's rendering of a Dream Chaser spaceplane with an attached cargo pod and solar arrays in orbit.             
    Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has selected the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan Centaur to launch the company's Dream Chaser spacecraft for six International Space Station resupply and return missions.

Although the spacecraft was originally created to carry humans, Sierra Nevada lost out to SpaceX and Boeing when the company tried to get a contract from NASA to launch astronauts in 2014.

The company hopes to start launching missions by 2021, to deliver supplies to astronauts on the ISS.

SNC argues that the Dream Chaser's ability to land on a traditional runway gives it an edge over rival solutions for delicate scientific research cargo.

Sierra Nevada was recently awarded the contract by Nasa to re-supply the ISS.

SpaceX and Northrop Grumman will also continue to fly supplies to ISS.

Vulcan Centaur's flight proven design, coupled with innovative technology, is transforming the future of space launch.

SNC's Dream Chaser, which resembles the long-retired Space Shuttle, is slated to blast off from Florida's Cape Canaveral in late 2021 aboard a Vulcan Centaur rocket being built by United Launch Alliance - a joint venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp.

The private Dream Chaser space plane has a new ride to the International Space Station.


LOUISVILLE - Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Louisville-based space division is partnering with Centennial's United Launch Alliance LLC to provide launch vehicles for the NASA Dream Chaser spacecraft's six upcoming missions to the International Space Station. And to further delight Shuttle-huggers, those landings are planned to be at the old Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center.

The Vulcan Centaur will use BE-4 engines developed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's space company Blue Origin.

"I have been a fan and a supporter and a cheerleader of this fantastic vehicle from the first moment I saw it", ULA CEO Tory Bruno said during today's press conference. But he added that if a delay did arise, ULA would use its Atlas V rocket as a back-up.

Sadly for SNC, in 2013 the Dream Chaser crashed following its first free flight after being dropped from a helicopter.

SpaceX's Dragon capsules now splash down in the Pacific Ocean, while Northrop's Cygnus capsules burn up as they fall through the atmosphere, which gives NASA an opportunity to remove trash from the station.

The contract eventually went to Boeing and SpaceX, but Sierra Nevada made it to the final round. SNC is recognized among the three most innovative U.S. companies in space, as a Tier One Superior Supplier for the U.S. Air Force, and as one of America's fastest growing companies. The cargo missions are all part of NASA's Commercial Resupply Services Program, one of a few initiatives at the space agency that's meant to offload space transportation to the private aerospace industry. "But really, more important than any of that, to us, is that you have trusted us with your baby, this wonderful Dream Chaser vehicle".

Follow Paul on Twitter.

"Crewed missions are coming, we just need to build it and they will come".

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