NASA gives go ahead to Dream Chaser for ISS cargo mission

First flight and supply delivery scheduled for late 2020.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Feb 10, 2018
NASA's Commercial Crew Program has officially given the go ahead to the Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft to launch a cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in late 2020.

Titled "Authority to Proceed," the green light provided by NASA confirms the spacecraft meets or exceeds all of the program's requirements and is safe for transporting cargo to and from the ISS.

In November 2017, the Dream Chaser successfully completed a series of tests. It was lifted up by a heavy-lift helicopter, then released at an altitude of 12,324 feet. It attained a speed of 330 miles per hour and glided 16,217 feet for 60 seconds in a horizontal direction before landing on a runway at 191 miles per hour.

Other tests confirmed its computer system is capable of keeping the spacecraft steady in a turbulent environment and verified its safety as a venue for ferrying supplies to and from the space station.

"This test was a huge success, and when we looked at the data, we were thrilled to see how closely our flight performance projections matched the actual flight data," stated SNC business unit vice president Steve Lindsay.

"This gives us high confidence in our atmospheric flight performance as we move toward orbital operations."

SNC initially prioritized development of a Dream Chaser capable of ferrying astronauts to and from the space station. Although the Commercial Crew Program selected SpaceX's Dragon 2 and Boeing's Starliner capsules for astronaut transportation, SNC still chose to proceed with development and testing of its cargo-transporting Dream Chaser.

Along with SpaceX's Dragon and Orbital ATK's Cygnus capsule, the Dream Chaser was awarded a Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract with NASA in 2016.

"SNC has been successfully completing critical design milestones as approved by NASA, and having a timetable for the first launch is another important step achieved for us," noted SNC owner and CEO Fatih Ozmen.

"The team has worked so hard to get to this point, and we can't wait to fulfill this mission for NASA."

The Dream Chaser will launch on an Atlas V rocket for its first two ISS resupply missions in 2020 and 2021. On its return, it will land at the Kennedy Space Center's (KSC) Shuttle Landing Facility.



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