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Sierra Space’s Tenacity mini-shuttle arrives at the Cape

Capitalism in space: Sierra Space’s Tenacity Dream Chaser mini-shuttle has finally arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for its final testing and assembly onto ULA’s Vulcan rocket.

Upon arrival at Kennedy, teams moved Dream Chaser Tenacity to the high bay inside the Space Systems Processing Facility, where it will undergo final testing and prelaunch processing ahead of its launch scheduled for later this year.

…The remaining pre-flight activities at Kennedy include acoustic and electromagnetic interference and compatibility testing, completion of work on the spaceplane’s thermal protection system, and final payload integration.

If all goes right, Tenacity’s first mission will last 45 days, delivery about 7,800 pounds of cargo to ISS, and prove out the reusable mini-shuttle for up to seven more flights to ISS.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • sippin_bourbon

    I hope it does well.
    I wonder if Boeing is feeling the pressure to get Starliner up there before this.

    I know that Dream Chaser is unmanned for now, but another vehicle in this market beating them would be another embarrassment.

  • Cloudy

    I doubt Boeing cares at this point. If they really were willing and able to get things going on their own they would have long before now. This is a money loosing project to fulfill contractual obligations at this point, nothing more. As for embarrassment – that’s like worrying about modesty once everybody has already seen you naked..

  • David M. Cook

    Too bad this thing doesn‘t carry humans! Just one would make it much more useful.

  • David M. Cook: Be patient. There is no doubt that a manned version will follow.

  • Concerned

    Should have built and flown the DynaSoar/X-20 over 50 years ago and skipped the big expensive shuttle.
    That was the dream that should have been chased.
    Might have learned the hard knock lessons about winged space vehicles much earlier.
    (Numero uno, they don’t scale up very well)

  • Edward

    Places that I have worked have considered the acoustic and EMI/EMC (range) testing as part of the environmental test series. Acoustic testing verifies survival through launch conditions beyond vibration (e.g. the sonic vibrations caused by the shaking of the fairings), and range testing verifies antenna reliability (additional EMI/EMC testing verifies that all the electronics on board do not interfere with each other during orbital operations).
    The DynaSoar/X-20 was more of a test project for the Air Force rather than a useful manned spacecraft. It only held one person, and did not have much practical value other than as a test or experimental spacecraft.

    Ironically, NASA had originally envisioned the Space Shuttle as a much smaller spacecraft, slightly larger than the DynaSoar (what an unfortunate name), carrying only a few astronauts to orbit, perhaps to a space station, and it had a small pallet bay in the body of the fuselage to carry a few experiments to expose to space. However — and here is where the irony really comes in — it was at the insistence of the Air Force that the Space Shuttle became a much larger behemoth, so large that the whole body and wings would flex, so the heat shielding had to be designed to withstand that flexibility, and that may have been the Space Shuttle’s downfall, with a heat shield that was too fragile that it needed extensive and expensive refurbishment between flights.

    What we really should be upset about, though, is that the replacement for the Shuttle, Constellation (Orion/Ares), abandoned reusability and reverted to techniques similar to the expendable Apollo project. Fortunately, the commercial space companies have wisely chosen to pursue reusability, and Sierra Space is going for the even more complicated space plane technology. Good for them.

  • Sayoamra

    My memory might be wrong, didn’t Sierra Space bid to use its shuttle at the same time Spacex did its first bid cargo dragon many moons ago. They were one of three final bids and they didn’t get it. But I’m glad to see them still on there feet and almost ready to get this to make this work.

  • Edward

    Your memory is partially correct. The right concept, continuing to fly the Shuttle commercially, but the wrong company. It was United Space Alliance, a major contractor for refurbishing the Shuttle, so they had a good grasp on what the Shuttle would cost to operate as a commercial spacecraft:

  • Sayomara: Your memory is partly correct. Sierra (then Sierra Nevada) bid against SpaceX and Boeing for the manned contract, and lost. It then rebid with a cargo version of the mini-shuttle for cargo flights (a much simpler and less challenging proposition) and won a contract.

    That was back in the 2016 timeframe. For the next five years development of the mini-shuttle slowed to a crawl, falling far behind schedule.In fact, things did not begin to really move until Sierra Nevada separated its space division by forming Sierra Space, sometime in 2021.

  • Doubting Thomas

    According to Eric Berger X feed: “Starliner crewed test flight now has an indefinite launch date”. He speculates that if Boeing has to de-stack Starliner, late August is probably the earliest launch date.

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