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The competition heats up: Sierra Nevada and Stratolaunch have signed an agreement to use a 3/4 scale version of Dream Chaser as the manned vehicle launched by Stratolaunch’s giant first stage airplane.
The Dream Chaser is a reusable, lifting-body spacecraft capable of crewed or autonomous flight. Dream Chaser is the only lifting-body spacecraft capable of a runway landing, anywhere in the world. Stratolaunch Systems is a Paul G. Allen project dedicated to developing an air-launch system that will revolutionize space transportation by providing orbital access to space at lower costs, with greater safety and more flexibility.
As designed, the Dream Chaser-Stratolauncher human spaceflight system can carry a crew of three astronauts to LEO destinations. This versatile system can also be tailored for un-crewed space missions, including science missions, light cargo transportation or suborbital point-to-point transportation. The scaled crewed spacecraft design is based on SNC’s full-scale Dream Chaser vehicle which, for the past four years, has undergone development and flight tests as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
More information is expected to be released about this partnership at the International Astronautical Congress taking place in Toronto this week.
Summing up, however, this partnership is a blatant challenge to NASA’s Orion/SLS system as well as its its commercial crew capsules built by Boeing and SpaceX. Sierra Nevada and Stratolaunch are essentially telling the world that they are going to build their own manned reusable vehicle, and that it is going to be better than anyone else’s.
Oh how I love competition. It sure makes things happen quickly.