Dream Chaser lives on!

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The competition heats up: Sierra Nevada reveals that it intends to bid its Dream Chaser mini-shuttle as an ISS cargo vessel in NASA’s next round of cargo contracts.

The company also says that it is continuing development of the shuttle right now, despite the present lack of a contract. If this is true, I would expect them to do, as promised, the additional glide tests they had planned, using their engineering test vehicle. If not, then the claim of further development is merely talk, a lobbying effort to improve their chances of winning the next contract.

Not that I blame them. I just think they would do themselves a lot more good doing an actual glide test.



  • mpthompson

    I really like the Dream Chaser, if for no other reason than a living legacy of terrific research done in 50’s and 60’s on lifting bodies. I was hoping that another space agency beyond NASA might sponsor development such as the ESA. There was some talk of this a few year ago, but I haven’t heard any news lately.

    That being said, as a pure cargo vehicle, does Dream Chaser offer any real advantages over the alternatives? The obvious advantage is that it looks very reusable and could return directly to KSC which could lower costs to the end customer. However, the extra weight of the vehicle would seem to limit it to less cargo and require more powerful and expensive launch vehicles which would mitigate the cost advantage. I wonder if the F9R has enough oomph for the Dream Chaser if NASA doesn’t mind consolidating cargo runs to a single launch vehicle (I’m assuming SpaceX would continue to win future cargo missions).

  • Edward

    Dream Chaser Lives on:
    > There was some talk of this a few year ago, but I haven’t heard any news lately.

    You may be remembering ESA’s Hermes manned spacecraft. It, too, was a lifting body design. You may also have heard of ESA’s current CSTS, which is a capsule design.

    One of the advantages of the lifting body design is that its heat shield is not ablative, in which the heat shield sheds heat by melting and the melted material is blown away by the “wind.” A lifting body craft is able to “fly” higher in the atmosphere during reentry, so it does not get as hot as the standard capsule. This could allow for “next day” relaunch, with operations that are more like an airline’s than an Apollo’s. This is why I think that the lifting body/runway landing is the future of spaceflight, despite the weight of the additional spacecraft structure.

    The Space Shuttle was most likely designed this way so that they would not have to do extensive rework to the heat shielding after each flight. Unfortunately, the tiles turned out to be too delicate to withstand debris that was kicked up from the runway during landing. The next generations of lifting body spacecraft will have to have more robust heat shields, because no matter how carefully NASA swept the runway, there was always something to damage the tiles.

  • pzatchok

    I would not be surprised if Musk threw a few million at them just to keep the idea alive.

    If I were them I would look to selling vehicles outside the US and gaining some investors from there also. Like the UAE. They might just be able to be talked out of investing in Virgin and switching to Dream Chaser.

    The vehicle can go on pretty much any rocket capable of lifting cargo to the ISS.

  • wodun

    It offers a more gentle landing which could be useful depending on the experiment.

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