Dream Chaser space plane inches closer to its first flight

After the retirement of the space shuttle fleet, participants in the NASA commercial programs to send astronauts and cargo into space from American soil have all relied on capsules somewhat similar to the ones used during the Apollo era rather than spacecraft that look like the space shuttle. A company called Sierra Nevada Corp. has taken a different tact with its reusable spacecraft called Dream Chaser.

Dream Chaser is a spaceplane that looks very similar to the retired space shuttle. Sierra Nevada Corp. is now moving closer to the first spaceflight for Dream Chaser that will end with a landing at the Kennedy Space Center on a runway, just as the space shuttle did. Sierra Nevada Corp. has announced that it intends to use the Launch and Landing facility formally known as the space shuttle runway the land Dream Chaser as a conventional aircraft would.

Eventually, Dream Chaser will be used to build a private space station owned and operated by Sierra Nevada Corp. Before building its space station, the cargo spacecraft will carry supplies for NASA to and from the ISS beginning next year under the NASA commercial resupply services program alongside spacecraft from Boeing and SpaceX. While both Boeing and SpaceX use capsules that splash down in the ocean, Dream Chaser can land at most FAA-licensed landing sites with a 10,000-foot runway.

Sierra Nevada Corp. says that its spacecraft could land anywhere a commercial airliner is capable of touching down. Sierra Nevada Corp. and Space Florida, the company that manages the private runway where the space shuttle previously landed, held a press conference announcing Dream Chaser will use its runway.

Dream Chaser will launch using the Vulcan Centaur rocket built by United Launch Alliance. That launch will happen from Cape Canaveral Space Force station. The company is also looking to hire a number of new workers to help build the space station and Dream Chaser.