Stratolaunch and Sierra Nevada team up

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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.



  • geoffc

    Not really a challenge to SLS/Orion. Booster is tiny in payload compared to Orion. Dream Chaser is tiny compared to Orion.

    Definitely competition on a smaller scale with SpaceX. Different sizes for different missions though.

  • Tom Billings


    I may have been wrong in my comment on the post about Orbital looking for new booster engines. SNC’s vortex-cooled engines, inherited through their recent purchase of Orbitec, may have, in this situation, a next generation booster application.

    As of 2 years ago, Orbitec’s 30,000-lb (13,600-kg) thrust liquid vortex-cooled engine, that Orbitec was developing for the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Upper Stage Engine Program, was about 5 times smaller than the Merlins that SpaceX formerly intended to cluster in a 5 engine booster for dropping from Stratolaunch’s aircraft. So, …could we see a 150,000 lb. thrust VCCW engine pushing a DreamChaser into orbit in 5 years after a drop by Stratolaunch????

    Stay tuned!!

  • Andy Hill

    Theres not much by way of new information on the stratolauncher website, anyone know how far along they are?

    The last thing I saw was that the flight of their carrier craft had been delayed until at least 2016. I havent heard in the media anything about SNC producing a scaled down version of Dreamchaser before this week so I wonder how much this announcement can be taken seriously as a competitor to anyone.

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