Dream Chaser Spaceplane Program of SNC (Sierra Nevada Corporation)
The Dream Chaser Cargo System is an American reusable lifting body spaceplane developed , owned and operated by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems with HQs in Sparks, Nevada, USA. Although design, manufacturing and assembly is based in Louisville, Colorado, SNC has assembled a world-class “Dream Team” of aerospace companies, NASA centers, universities and international partners all collaborating to ensure the Dream Chaser is the safest, most reliable spacecraft in the world. 1)
SNC's Dream Chaser spaceplane is a multi-mission space utility vehicle designed for transporting crew and cargo to low-Earth orbit (LEO) destinations such as the International Space Station. Originally intended as a crewed vehicle, the Dream Chaser Space System, to be produced after the cargo variant is operational, is capable of carrying up to seven people and cargo to and from low Earth orbit.
NASA selected the Dream Chaser spaceplane under the CRS-2 (Commercial Resupply Service-2) contract to provide cargo delivery, return and disposal service for the space station. Dream Chaser will carry critical supplies like food, water, and science experiments and returns to Earth with a gentle runway landing. The spacecraft will provide a minimum of six cargo missions to and from the space station starting in fall 2021.
The Dream Chaser cargo system is designed to deliver up to 5,500 kg of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the space station, including food, water, supplies and science experiments. The Dream Chaser can gently return critical cargo with a runway landing at less than 1.5 g’s. After leaving the space station, the Dream Chaser can also dispose of trash. The vehicle is designed for high reusability, reducing overall cost and a quick turnaround between missions. The ability to launch on top of multiple launch vehicles and land at a wide variety of runways makes Dream Chaser a flexible option for reliable transportation.
Owned by Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen and CEO Fatih Ozmen, SNC is a trusted leader in solving the world’s toughest challenges through advanced engineering technologies in Space Systems, Commercial Solutions, and National Security and Defense.
Dream Chaser features include:
• Lifting-body spacecraft
• Autonomous launch, flight & landing capabilities
• 15 + times reusability
• Low, 1.5 g atmospheric entry
• Gentle runway landing compatible with runways worldwide
• Rapid access to crew or cargo upon landing.
• The Dream Chaser spacecraft has a gross mass of 9,000 kg, a length of 9 m, a span of 7 m (4.5 m with folded wings) and a height of 2 m. Up to 5,500 kg of payload can be transported to the ISS.
Figure 1: Photo of the SNC Dream Chaser on the runway (image credit: SNC)
• June 9, 2021: Sierra Space, the new space subsidiary of Sierra Nevada Corporation, announced June 9 that it signed an initial agreement with a British spaceport that could lead to landings of the company’s Dream Chaser vehicle there. 2)
- Sierra Space signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Spaceport Cornwall expressing support for future landings of Dream Chaser at the spaceport, also known as Cornwall Newquay Airport in southwestern England.
- The MOU came after Sierra Space performed a study, supported by the U.K. Space Agency, evaluating the feasibility of using the spaceport for Dream Chaser landings. The lifting body vehicle is designed to glide to a landing on runways, and the initial study concluded the spaceport is “a suitable and viable return location for the orbital return” for Dream Chaser, Sierra Space said in a statement.
- The MOU is not a final agreement regarding hosting Dream Chaser at the spaceport. Instead, Sierra Space said it will lead to more detailed studies “for potentially naming Spaceport Cornwall as an approved orbital return location for the company’s Dream Chaser spaceplane missions in the future.” The company didn’t announce a timeline for that study or approving Spaceport Cornwall for spaceport landings.
- “In the backdrop of the G7 Summit, Sierra Space is pleased to announce the ongoing progress we are making with Spaceport Cornwall as a viable site for Dream Chaser,” Fatih Ozmen, chief executive of Sierra Nevada Corporation, said in the statement. The G7 summit is taking place in Cornwall June 11–13.
- “In the backdrop of the G7 Summit, Sierra Space is pleased to announce the ongoing progress we are making with Spaceport Cornwall as a viable site for Dream Chaser,” Fatih Ozmen, chief executive of Sierra Nevada Corporation, said in the statement. The G7 summit is taking place in Cornwall June 11–13.
- Sierra Space is the second company to announce plans to use Spaceport Cornwall. Virgin Orbit has an agreement to conduct flights of its air-launch LauncherOne system from the spaceport, with the first such mission no earlier than 2022.
- “Spaceport Cornwall is a multi-user spaceport and it’s a great achievement to add an additional launch partner to our consortium a year ahead of first launch from the site in 2022,” Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, said in the statement.
- Sierra Nevada Corporation has long touted the ability of Dream Chaser to land at a wide range of airports and has worked on studies with several airports. However, all the missions it currently has under contract through NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program involve landing the Dream Chaser at Space Florida’s Launch and Landing Facility, the former Shuttle Landing Facility runway at the Kennedy Space Center.
- The announcement is one of the first for Sierra Space since it was established as a subsidiary of Sierra Nevada Corporation. That move, announced in April, was intended to allow it to better capture the growth it foresees in commercial space using Dream Chaser and, later, commercial space stations.
• May 4, 2021: Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader, has entered into a Use Agreement for Space Florida’s Launch and Landing Facility (LLF) to land the Dream Chaser spaceplane in support of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) contract. Dream Chaser, America’s Spaceplane, will service the International Space Station (ISS) under the CRS-2 contract in 2022. 3)
- “This is a monumental step for both Dream Chaser and the future of space travel,” said SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen. “To have a commercial vehicle return from the International Space Station to a runway landing for the first time since NASA’s space shuttle program ended a decade ago will be a historic achievement."
- The Use Agreement makes SNC the first commercial user of Space Florida’s FAA Re-entry Site Operator License and provides the runway and support facilities needed during testing and landing. It also takes SNC one step further in applying for its own FAA re-entry license, something needed ahead of the first Dream Chaser mission next year.
- “The Dream Chaser spaceplane is hands-down the best way home,” said Janet Kavandi, executive vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area. “A runway landing is the optimum solution for both humans and science.”
- Dream Chaser has the potential to land at any FAA licensed landing site that has a suitable 10,000 ft runway capable of handling a typical commercial jet. Its low-g entry and runway landing protects sensitive payloads and provides immediate access to payloads upon landing.
- The LLF’s proximity to Kennedy Space Center and formal recognition as a designated return site for rapid recovery of precious ISS cargo makes it the ideal location for the first orbital vehicle in SNC’s Dream Chaser fleet, the Dream Chaser Tenacity™spaceplane to make its debut landing.
- SNC recently announced its Space Systems Group will transition to an independent commercial space company, Sierra Space.
• April 21, 2021: Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader, announced the creation of Sierra Space, a new commercial space company. The new company’s “space-as-a-service” business model will leverage cutting-edge technologies, such as Dream Chaser® spaceplanes and expandable LIFE™ (Large Inflatable Fabric Environment) habitats, within the fast-growing new space economy, which is projected to grow to $1.4T by 2030. 4)
- With assets transitioned from the SNC’s Space Systems business area, Sierra Space will deliver the future of space transportation, destinations and infrastructure, including plans to offer the first free-flying commercial space station.
- “Sierra Space is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the significant growth opportunities within the space market driven by our deep operating history of more than 30 years, coupled with long-standing partnerships with blue-chip customers,” said Fatih Ozmen, CEO and owner of SNC. “In this fast-growing and competitive marketplace, the SNC robust contracts profile and expanding backlog provide valuable tailwinds and momentum.”
- The new commercial space station integrates the large size and versatility of LIFE habitats with the high cargo capacity, and non-toxic runway returns to Earth, of the Dream Chaser spaceplane. Under NASA contract, Dream Chaser will perform the first of at least seven cargo missions to the International Space Station starting next year.
- Sierra Space will benefit from the leadership of SNC’s owners, Eren and Fatih Ozmen, and take advantage of synergies made possible by SNC’s broad customer base and industry-leading space technology. Sierra Space will have the independence to seek creative partnerships and market opportunities to scale its growth quickly and capitalize on a fast-growing and competitive marketplace. The company begins its journey with $3B+ in active contracts and anticipates revenues exceeding $4B within the decade.
• April 14, 2021: Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) will spin off its space division into a separate company, a move reflecting the “historic growth” it foresees for that business in the next several years. 5)
Figure 2: Sierra Nevada Corporation says it will transition its Space Systems division into an independent company, Sierra Space, to better capture the growth it projects for technologies like its Dream Chaser spaceplane (image credit: SNC)
- In a message to employees April 14, SNC Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen said the company’s Space Systems division will become a standalone company, called Sierra Space, although remain a subsidiary of SNC.
- Creating Sierra Space, she said, will enable the company to better capture expected growth in the space industry. SNC’s space business currently generates $400 million in annual revenue, and she projected that increasing to $4 billion in 5 to 10 years. Privately-held SNC has traditionally disclosed few details about its revenue.
- “To achieve this growth and even greater impact more quickly, today we are announcing our space business area will transition to become an independent, commercial space company – Sierra Space,” she wrote. “Our teams and technologies are uniquely positioned to realize this significant current market opportunity to build the new space economy.”
- Ozmen provided few details about how the transition of SNC’s space business to Sierra Space would unfold, but she said it would take several months to complete. Even after the transition, Sierra Space will “continue deep cooperation and synergy” with SNC’s other business areas in aviation and defense.
How SNC built its space business
- SNC’s space business dates back to acquisitions in 2008 of MicroSat Systems, a small satellite developer, and of SpaceDev, a company with expertise in spacecraft components and hybrid propulsion systems. SNC acquired Orbital Technologies Corporation, a space technology company involved in propulsion and life support systems, in 2014.
- The SpaceDev acquisition brought with it the technology for Dream Chaser, a lifting-body spacecraft that SNC developed first through NASA’s commercial crew program and then its commercial cargo program. The first cargo Dream Chaser is being built for launch in 2022 under a NASA contract to resupply the International Space Station.
- SNC remains interested in developing a crewed version of Dream Chaser, and is also working on inflatable module technology called Large Inflatable Fabric Environment (LIFE) through NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, program. The company is proposing to combine Dream Chaser and LIFE into concepts for a commercial space station.
“Vibrant low-Earth orbit economy”
- At a March 31 media event, SNC officials described their space station concepts, as well as the company’s intent to participate in NASA’s new Commercial LEO Destinations program, which will provide funding through Space Act Agreements to mature commercial space station designs.
- At that event, an executive said the company was disappointed in NASA’s planned funding for that program, which will be limited to between $300 million and $400 million combined over as many as four Space Act Agreements. “We’re a little disappointed in the amount of money NASA wants to put against it and the timeline,” John Roth, vice president of business development at Sierra Nevada Space Systems, said at the briefing.
- He called for greater investment by NASA to speed up development of commercial space stations. “We have done financial modeling and it’s not going to be inexpensive,” he said. “We’re prepared to invest beside NASA in a public-private partnership to make that happen.”
- Ozmen, in her memo, described the company’s role in creating a “vibrant low-Earth orbit economy” with Dream Chaser and that commercial space station, along with the use of LIFE modules for exploration and other technologies SNC has developed.
- “Demand is soaring for experienced, cutting-edge technologies like ours, and the high barrier to entry gives us an important competitive advantage,” she wrote. “We have the right team and the right tech at the right time, and our customers expect even more great things from us in the future.”
• February 8, 2021: SNC, the global aerospace and national security company owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, is a step closer to landing the world’s first commercial spaceplane on U.S. soil. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) awarded the re-entry site license to Cape Canaveral Spaceport Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) in Florida at request of the state’s aerospace economic development agency, making it the first commercially licensed re-entry site. Dream Chaser, America’s Spaceplane®, will service the International Space Station (ISS) under a NASA contract in 2022; the vehicle will return from the ISS to a runway landing for the first time since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011. 6)
- “Dream Chaser is the only commercial, lifting-body space vehicle capable of a runway landing anywhere in the world. That’s how astronauts prefer to travel to and from space and it’s no wonder,” said SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen. “The opportunity for our spaceplane to land on this historic runway where so many shuttle missions did before underscores both the practical advantages of Dream Chaser and its time-honored place in NASA’s space exploration heritage.”
- Among its many attributes, Dream Chaser has the ability to land at any licensed landing site with a suitable 10,000 ft. runway capable of handling a typical commercial jet. The spaceplane’s low-g entry and runway landing protects sensitive payloads and provides immediate access to payloads upon landing. The first orbital vehicle in SNC’s Dream Chaser fleet will be named the Dream Chaser Tenacity™ spaceplane.
- “A runway landing capability provides significant advantages over other return options,” said Janet Kavandi, former NASA astronaut and executive vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area. “I was fortunate to land on this historic runway for my three NASA shuttle missions, and I understand how a spaceplane provides a safer and more benign entry experience for humans, as well as delicate payloads. Astronauts can immediately depart the vehicle, and researchers have access to their experiments almost immediately after landing.
- SNC congratulates Space Florida on this licensing that will accelerate alternative options to commercial space travel and make future space travel more accessible to more people.”
- The SLF, now referred to by Space Florida as the Launch and Landing Facility, at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) was the first purpose-built landing site for an orbiter returning from space. A total of 78 shuttle missions landed at the SLF.
- The application process for the Re-entry Site License included an environmental assessment in collaboration with NASA, the FAA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the community. SNC supported Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency, in the agency’s license application by providing inputs to sonic boom and risk analysis.
- Next steps for SNC include continuing its work with the FAA to be issued a license to operate Dream Chaser re-entries at the SLF, building on the success of Space Florida’s license application.
• November 18, 2020: United Launch Alliance’s new rocket, the Vulcan Centaur, has to fly at least twice before it is certified by the U.S. Space Force to launch national security satellites starting in fiscal year 2022. 7)
- ULA said Vulcan’s first launch in 2021 will be a lunar lander for Astrobotic, a NASA contractor that will deliver payloads to the moon. The second flight also planned for 2021 was to carry Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station.
- Sierra Nevada announced Nov. 17 that the first flight of the Dream Chaser spacecraft to the ISS will slip to 2022 due to development delays caused by the pandemic.
- ULA said the delay in Dream Chaser’s first mission will not prevent Vulcan from getting certified on time for its first national security mission in 2022.
- “We continue to work with our customer Astrobotic for Vulcan Centaur’s first flight and look forward to our initial launch in 2021,” ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye told SpaceNews. The Dream Chaser timeline still “supports our DoD Phase 2 certification schedule.”
- “ULA’s goal for Vulcan Centaur development is to ensure we are ready to support our customers’ missions and launch dates whenever they are prepared to launch,” Rye said.
- ULA and SpaceX are the two launch providers selected by the Space Force for the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 launch service procurement. On Aug. 7 ULA was awarded the first Phase 2 contract to launch two missions — one in the second quarter and the other in the fourth quarter fiscal year 2022.
- Astrobotic and Sierra Nevada are the only two publicly announced customers for Vulcan. ULA did not say if it has another customer lined up for Vulcan’s second flight if Dream Chaser is not ready in 2022.
- Under the terms of the Phase 2 procurement, if Vulcan is not certified on time, ULA will be allowed to offer the Atlas 5 as a substitute.
• November 18, 2020: Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) says the first flight of its Dream Chaser spacecraft to the International Space Station is now planned for 2022 after development delays caused by the pandemic. 8)
- During a media briefing Nov. 17, SNC executives said that despite the near-term delays in assembly of the lifting-body cargo spacecraft, they were still focused on a long-term plan that includes using cargo and crew versions of Dream Chaser to support a commercial space station by the end of the decade.
- The company had previously planned a first flight of Dream Chaser, the first of six under a Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station, in late 2021. But at the briefing, company officials said that mission is now scheduled for some time in 2022.
- ”COVID has definitely played a role” in that delay, said Steve Lindsey, senior vice president for strategy at SNC Space Systems. One example he gave involved structural testing of the spacecraft’s cargo module at a contractor’s facility in San Diego. COVID-related restrictions prevented SNC engineers from being on site at that facility to oversee the tests.
- SNC developed a workaround by using a mission control center it developed for Dream Chaser in Colorado so those engineers could remotely oversee those tests. “That worked great. Unfortunately, it took probably three or four times as long as it should have,” he said.
- A related problem, he said, involves suppliers who have had to suspend operations because of COVID-19 outbreaks at their facilities. There have also been technical challenges with Dream Chaser, although he did not go into details about specific issues. “All of those things have conspired to move the date a little bit,” he said.
- Lindsey wasn’t more specific about a launch date other than some time in 2022. A specific date, he said, will depend on both when the vehicle is ready as well as NASA’s “traffic model” for visiting vehicles, which include Dream Chaser as well as other cargo and crew spacecraft.
- In addition to its NASA cargo contract, the company continues to seek other customers for the vehicle while retaining the option for a crewed version. “There is a lot of interest out there. There’s a lot of folks watching our progress,” he said. “We believe the market demand is out there.” He didn’t identify any customers beyond the United Nations’ Office for Outer Space Affairs, which previously announced an agreement with SNC for a Dream Chaser mission that would carry experiments from member countries.
- SNC is looking to move beyond Dream Chaser to commercial space stations that could be supported by cargo and crewed versions of Dream Chaser. Janet Kavandi, the company’s new executive vice president for space systems, showed an illustration of a space station incorporating inflatable modules the company has been developing as part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships program.
- “This is our vision for the future,” she said. “We have visions for how to build platforms in space that can be built commercially” for use in applications ranging from scientific research to tourism.
- Company officials didn’t go into depth about their plans for a commercial station, but Kavandi billed it as an “easy transition” from the ISS. Lindsey suggested the company will pursue a future NASA solicitation to provide funding for a commercial space station, one that has been on hold in part because of a lack of funding for the agency’s overall low Earth orbit commercialization plans.
- Those NASA plans foresee a gradual transition by the agency from the ISS to commercial platforms. Lindsey said he expected the ISS to operate to 2028 or 2030, by which time commercial successors like that proposed by SNC will be in place to handle research activities currently done on the ISS. “I think the timeframe will be the end of the 2020s, going into 2030, when that happens,” he said.
Figure 3: A concept by Sierra Nevada Corp. for a commercial space station using inflatable module technology it is developing and serviced by Dream Chaser spacecraft (image credit: SNC)
• August 18, 2020: Colorado-based Sierra Nevada Corp. aims to complete its first operational Dream Chaser space plane by March to provide cargo trips to the International Space Station. 9)
- The spacecraft, which resembles a small space shuttle, originally was proposed to carry astronauts, but Sierra Nevada so far only has NASA contracts for cargo. Company executives continue to say they believe Dream Chaser will carry people someday. The company updates designs for Dream Chaser as NASA's commercial crew program updates its requirements.
- "We've never stopped trying to move that forward, although we are not currently funded by NASA for crew missions," said John Roth, vice president of business development at the company, told UPI last week.
- Sierra Nevada plans Dream Chaser's first cargo mission for late 2021, to be launched aboard a United Launch Alliance rocket. Since it isn't carrying people, no test flights beyond short drops from aircraft completed in 2013 and 2017 are required, Roth said.
- "NASA will look at our ability to control the vehicle and rendezvous with the station," Roth said.
- Sierra Nevada in 2014 lost a competition for a multibillion-dollar astronaut contract to SpaceX and Boeing in NASA's Commercial Crew Program, but has won over $2 billion in NASA contracts to develop Dream Chaser as a cargo vessel.
- SpaceX on 2 August 2020 completed the first successful flight of its Crew Dragon capsule to the space station and back with astronauts on board.
- Boeing's first attempt to fly its Starliner capsule to the space station failed in December. The company plans to try the test flight again later this year.
- Dream Chaser would return to Earth under its own power. A prototype has been tested by dropping it from an aircraft, but it has yet to launch as intended on a rocket sent into space.
- Sierra Nevada won NASA contracts for two cargo trips, Roth said. The company has reserved six launches on ULA's new Vulcan Centaur rocket, which is being developed.
- Dream Chaser should be more appealing, someday, to space tourists since it resembles a plane and doesn't land with a jolt under parachutes like a space capsule, Roth said.
- Sierra Nevada plans to develop an entire business line around Dream Chaser, including space tourism, said Chris Quilty, an analyst with St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Quilty Analytics.
- "Losing the astronaut contract was a disappointment, but getting the cargo contract, that was a lifeline for Dream Chaser," Quilty said. "Unlike a capsule, this can touch down on a runway, and NASA or other scientists can retrieve time-sensitive payloads immediately."
- Sierra Nevada still has time to grab NASA's attention again if Boeing doesn't perform well on its next test flight, said Marco Caceres, senior space analyst at Washington D.C.-based Teal Group.
- "Their relationship with NASA is solid, and that's a good thing," Caceres said. "Boeing was a legacy supplier, and [NASA] really couldn't say no to SpaceX."
- Ultimately, safety and reliability will determine who flies spacecraft with people on board, he said.
- Sierra Nevada challenged NASA's decision to cut it out of the astronaut program. But a government watchdog rejected the challenge in 2018.
- NASA also recognized several favorable features in the Sierra Nevada and SpaceX proposals, but ultimately concluded that SpaceX's lower price made it a better value than the proposal submitted by Sierra Nevada," the summary of the decision said.
• May 01, 2020: Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, marked National Space Day by announcing the name of its first orbital vehicle set to launch under contract with NASA: Dream Chaser Tenacity. “Tenacity is in SNC’s DNA,” said SNC Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen. 10)
- “Every critical moment in SNC’s history of innovation has called for tenacity, in overcoming challenges in order to support and protect explorers and heroes. As the nation faces this current challenge, we want this vehicle to be a beacon of hope that American ingenuity – and tenacity – will bring brighter days ahead.”
- SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft, known as “America’s Spaceplane™,” is the world’s only non-capsule, commercial spacecraft and is capable of a runway landing. Under a NASA contract, it will perform cargo delivery and disposal services to and from the International Space Station on at least six NASA missions.
- Dream Chaser is a story of grit and tenacity on the part of SNC’s team,” said John Curry, SNC’s Program Director for Dream Chaser. “NASA’s vision and ours for a next gen space shuttle with a gentle runway landing has weathered tough economic and budget resources and competing visions. The team and engineers working on Dream Chaser have believed in its superior design, knowing tenacity would lead to Dream Chaser flying in space and returning humans and science back to Earth safely.”
- NASA this week selected the Dynetics team, of which SNC is an integral part, to support its Artemis mission to the moon. SNC is leading development of the crew module for NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) program, which will ferry astronauts and supplies to and from the moon’s surface. The program is designed to provide new science and material resources and leverage the moon as a proving ground for future Mars missions. NASA’s goal is to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 and establish sustainable missions by 2028.
Figure 4: Illustration of the SNC Dream Chaser Tenacity (image credit: SNC)
• April 21, 2020: SNC uncrated both wings for its Dream Chaser spaceplane this month at the company’s Louisville, Colorado production facility. The wings’ arrival kicks off the much-anticipated integration phase of a beautiful and critical differentiator for Dream Chaser, the world’s only spaceplane owned by a private company and under contract with NASA. 11)
- The arrival kicks off the integration of the complex Wing Deployment System (WDS) as part of the continued assembly and integration of the vehicle. With their innovative folding design, the wings are stowed in the fairing ahead of launch. After the launch vehicle separates, the WDS deploys the wings and locks them into place. Dream Chaser’s steeply angled wings function as stabilizers for the lift generated by the body of the vehicle.
- “The wings for Dream Chaser presented an interesting design challenge,” said Dream Chaser program director John Curry. “Not only must they survive in low-Earth orbit like a satellite, but they need to be operational in Earth’s atmosphere, like an aircraft.” Just like the structural body for Dream Chaser, the wings were manufactured by Lockheed Martin in Texas, a subcontractor to SNC, and are single bonded composite structures. This state-of-the-art technology saves weight without compromising strength and stiffness.
Figure 5: Photo of SNC's arrival of both wings for its Dream Chaser spaceplane (image credit: SNC)
• November 19, 2019: Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, delivered a test version of its Shooting Star cargo module to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for testing ahead of its planned launch with SNC’s Dream Chaser® spacecraft in 2021. 12)
Figure 6: Shooting Star is a 15-foot attachment to Dream Chaser that will be used on NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract to provide extra storage for payloads and to facilitate cargo disposal upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere (image credit: SNC)
- “With the addition of Shooting Star we add a capability for NASA, sending even more critical science, food and cargo to the International Space Station, and contributing to the important work the astronauts are doing every day,” said Eren Ozmen, SNC’s Chairwoman and President.
- Dream Chaser will execute its first of at least six launches to the International Space Station in fall of 2021 under the CRS-2 contract. The cargo module will carry an additional 10,000 pounds of pressurized and unpressurized payloads to the International Space Station.
- A key capability for Dream Chaser is performing cargo disposal upon re-entry. SNC’s Shooting Star cargo modules will burn up in the earth’s atmosphere, discarding unwanted material offloaded from the International Space Station.
- “Shooting Star’s ability to deliver additional cargo and provide a disposal service makes it and Dream Chaser extremely effective and versatile,” said former NASA space shuttle commander and retired USAF pilot Steve Lindsey, now senior vice president of strategy for SNC’s Space Systems business area.
- For additional versatility, Shooting Star can support logistics services to other LEO destinations, including future commercial outposts, and for the lunar Gateway. SNC has also developed a concept for a free flying version that can act as a satellite to carry large payloads, with high-power capacity.
• August 14, 2019: SNC selected United Launch Alliance (ULA) as the launch vehicle provider for the Dream Chaser® spacecraft’s six NASA missions to the International Space Station. The Dream Chaser will launch aboard ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rockets for its cargo resupply and return services to the space station, starting in 2021. 13)
- “Dream Chaser can launch from any conventional rocket so we had great options,” said SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen. “SNC selected ULA because of our strong collaboration on the Dream Chaser program, their proven safety record and on-time performance. This is bringing America’s spaceplane and America’s rocket together for best-of-breed innovation and exploration.”
- Under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract, the Dream Chaser will deliver more than 12,000 pounds of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the space station and remains attached for up to 75 days as an orbiting laboratory. Once the mated mission is complete, the Dream Chaser disposes about 7,000 pounds of space station trash and returns large quantities of critical science, accessible within minutes after a gentle runway landing.
Figure 7: Illustration of the SNC Dream Chaser on a ULA Vulcan Centaur Rocket (image credit: SNC)
• July 25, 2016: Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has passed the second Integration Certification Milestone under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. NASA assessed and fully approved SNC’s detailed approach for getting the Dream Chaser Cargo System to the International Space Station (ISS). SNC’s approved strategy demonstrates a thorough understanding of design requirements and available resources on both a system and subsystem level. Dream Chaser will provide a minimum of six cargo delivery missions to and from the ISS between 2019 and 2024. The first milestone was passed several weeks ago and outlined technical, logistic and schedule procedures for the program. 14)
• May 25, 2017: SNC successfully passed the third integration milestone for the Dream Chaser program under the NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS2) program, bringing it a major step closer to providing resupply services to the ISS (International Space Station). 15)
- CRS2 Integration Review #3 (IR3) confirmed SNC’s Dream Chaser Cargo System design meets NASA’s key requirements and maximizes probability of mission success during future flights. The spacecraft is scheduled for at least six missions between 2019 and 2024. The reliability of the Dream Chaser design was also thoroughly reviewed as part of NASA’s Phase I Safety Review Process, which successfully demonstrated safety and mission assurance criteria. The reviews covered all stages of mission operations including ground, launch, flight and landing.
- “Passing the third CRS2 integration milestone is a really big deal for the program and its future,” said Steve Lindsey, vice president of Space Exploration Systems for SNC’s Space Systems business area. “We are proud of this accomplishment and are well on our way towards completing the next critical milestone and the remaining developmental phases. It’s a great feeling to be executing all our milestones on schedule and to be moving forward to our operational flight.”
- The spacecraft’s unique cargo design is capable to transport 5,500 kg of cargo mass to the ISS on each mission. In addition, a significant amount of cargo, almost 2,000 kg is directly returned from the ISS to a gentle runway landing at a pinpoint location. Dream Chaser’s all non-toxic systems design allows personnel to simply walk up to the vehicle after landing, providing immediate access to time-critical science as soon as the wheels stop.
- The complex and thorough review process found no significant design, build or system issues and underscored the Dream Chaser’s readiness for flight.
• In January 2016, NASA competitively selected SNC (Sierra Nevada Corporation) Space Systems to receive a multi-year contract to provide cargo delivery, return and disposal services for the ISS. SNC received a CRS2 (Commercial Resupply Services 2) contract, to fulfill a minimum of six cargo delivery service missions to and from the ISS utilizing SNC’s Dream Chaser Cargo System. 16)
- NASA’s selection of SNC for the CRS2 program will enable spacecraft reusability and runway landings for United States’ cargo delivery and access to the ISS starting in 2019 through 2024.
- SNC is the owner and prime operator of the reusable Dream Chaser spacecraft, which has been in development for over 10 years, including six years as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and leverages over 40 years of NASA development and space shuttle heritage.
- Unlike the Cygnus (Oribital ATK) which burns up on reentry and Dragon(SpaceX) which lands via parachutes, the reusable Dream Chaser is capable of low-g reentry and runway landings. This is very beneficial for sensitive scientific experiments and allows much quicker access by researchers to time critical cargo.
Figure 8: SNC's Dream Chaser Spacecraft and Cargo Module attached to the ISS (image credit: SNC)
1) ”Dream Chaser® - America's Spaceplane™,” SNC, URL: https://www.sncorp.com
2) Jeff Foust, ”Sierra Space signs Dream Chaser agreement with British spaceport,” SpaceNews, 9 June 2021, URL: https://spacenews.com/sierra-space-signs-dream-chaser-agreement-with-british-spaceport/
3) ”SNC’s Dream Chaser® Spaceplane Cleared for Florida Runway Landing,” SNC News Release, 4 May 2021, URL: https://www.sncorp.com/press-releases/snc-dream-chaser-to-land-at-cape-canaveral/
4) ”Ozmens’ SNC Launches Sierra Space, an Independent Commercial Space Company,” SNC News Release, 21 April 2021, URL: https://www.sncorp.com/press-releases/snc-launches-sierra-space/
5) Jeff Foust, ”Sierra Nevada Corporation to spin off space division,” SpaceNews, 14 April 2021, URL: https://spacenews.com/sierra-nevada-corporation-to-spin-off-space-division/
”Ozmens’ SNC Dream Chaser® Spaceplane Closer to
Commercial Runway Landing,” SNC News Release, 8 February 2021,
Sandra Erwin, ”ULA: Dream Chaser schedule slip not a setback to
Vulcan certification,” SpaceNews, 18 November 2020, URL: https://spacenews.com/
8) Jeff Foust, ”First Dream Chaser mission slips to 2022,” SpaceNews, 18 November 2020, URL: https://spacenews.com/first-dream-chaser-mission-slips-to-2022/
Paul Brinkmann, ”Sierra Nevada aims to complete Dream Chaser
space plane in March,” Space Daily, 18 August 2020, URL: https://www.spacedaily.com/reports/
SNC’s “Dream Chaser Tenacity”: First Orbital Vehicle
of Dream Chaser® Spaceplane Fleet Reflects National Mood,”
SNC News Release, 01 May 2020, URL: https://www.sncorp.com
11) ”SNC’s Dream Chaser® Spaceplane Wings Arrive in Colorado,” SNC, 21 April 2020, URL: https://www.sncorp.com/press-releases/snc-dream-chaser-wing-arrival/
12) ”SNC’s “Shooting Star” Arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center,” SNC Press Release, 19 November 2029, URL: https://www.sncorp.com/press-releases/snc-shooting-star-arrives-nasa-kennedy-space-center/
13) ”SNC Selects ULA for Dream Chaser® Spacecraft Launches,” SNC Press Release, 14 August 2019, URL: https://www.sncorp.com/press-releases/snc-ula-dream-chaser-launch-announcement/
15) ”Dream Chaser® Spacecraft Passes Major Milestone,” SNC, May 25, 2017, URL: https://www.sncorp.com/press-releases/snc-dc-crs2-milestone-3/
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).