Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) 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.
The Dream Chaser, which is an uncrewed, robotic space plane, will begin its cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under the CRS-2 contract in 2022. It is designed to resupply the International Space Station with both pressurized and unpressurized cargo. The spaceplane will be launched by a United Launch Alliance rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the International Space Station (ISS), returning to the base after making the delivery.
According to former astronaut Janet Kavandi, who is also an executive vice president of Sierra Nevada, the first in the series of Dream Chasers is being prepared and should be ready later this year. “When we first launch next year, 2022, at the end of that mission, we plan to come back and land here at this very runway,” Kavandi said during a press conference. The goal is for the spacecraft to be able to transport more than 5,400 kg of payloads to the ISS, remaining docked for up to 75 days.
Dream Chaser is 9 meters long and, for the time being, its only objective is the transport of cargo, but the company hopes that one day, the spacecraft will also be able to take people into space – even entering the space tourism market. The difference of this ship is that, upon returning, it autonomously lands horizontally on conventional runways at the Space Center, unlike the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, which has its fall cushioned by parachute, landing in the sea.
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.
“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.“