Dream Chaser to launch on Vulcan Centaur for NASA cargo missions

17 Août, 2019, 06:21 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • A Sierra Nevada Corp. illustration of its Dream Chaser vehicle in orbit

Sierra Nevada Corp. will launch its winged Dream Chaser spaceplane atop United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan rocket for at least six NASA-contracted unpiloted cargo flights to the International Space Station (ISS) starting in 2021, company officials announced Wednesday. Dream Chaser will be transporting more than 12,000 lbs (5,400kg) of cargo to the space station over the course of six mission, the first of which will begin in late 2021. It will then undock, dispose of 3,175 kilograms of cargo, and return to Earth touching down at the Kennedy Space Center with "large qualities of critical science".

In 2017, ULA announced that the first Dream Chaser missions would launch on Atlas V rockets, but the company now aims to use the Vulcan Centaur for all six cargo delivery missions to the space station.

The contract eventually went to Boeing and SpaceX, but Sierra Nevada made it to the final round. A version of SNC's Dream Chaser was also built to carry crew. The company competed against SpaceX and Boeing for those commercial crew contracts.

"To be able to make Vulcan's' commercial debut with this block of missions underneath the Dream Chaser is just truly exciting", he said.

Northrop Grumman's Cygnus, Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and the Japanese cargo craft Kountori HTV will make seven spaceships traveling to and from the orbiting laboratory at different times.

Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) is one of three companies hired by NASA, the US space agency, to re-supply the orbiting research laboratory under a $14 billion overall award that guarantees each company a minimum of six flights between 2019 and 2024.

Bruno said the company's Atlas V rocket can also launch Dream Chaser if Vulcan development falls behind schedule.

Of course, the Dream Chaser could launch on any conventional rocket so the selection of one that has yet to make its first flight is fearless.

"SNC selected ULA because of our strong collaboration on the Dream Chaser program, their proven safety record and on-time performance", said SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen. "This is bringing America's spaceplane and America's rocket together for best-of-breed innovation and exploration".

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Vulcan Centaur rocket is now in production at ULA's factory in Decatur, Alabama.

Earlier this week, ULA said in a news release its new rocket is on track for the first launch in 2021.

The Dream Chaser is expected to be the first commercial Vulcan payload.

The almost 3-mile runway formerly hosted space shuttle landings until 2011 when the program ended.

In the meantime, SNC has been doing tests on the Dream Chaser, and it performed the vehicle's second free flight in 2017, demonstrating that the spaceplane can land successfully from a super high altitude.

At the end of a year ago, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the facility for plane-assisted rocket launches, such as Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket.

It will return carrying space trash and scientific data. The U.S. Air Force has awarded $967 million for the rocket's development under its National Security Space Launch competition.

This story will be updated.

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