Space research and technology gets a lot of criticism for its exorbitant costs. As the world moves towards reusable space technology, NASA has just revealed “Dream Chaser,” its new reusable space vehicle.
The Dream Chaser is an upgrade to the previous generation of the partially reusable space plane. The spacecraft is currently going through a test phase, and NASA hopes to deliver cargo to the International Space Station once the craft is completed. Researchers expect the first delivery to happen in a few years.
The craft has been designed with incredible aesthetics, and artist mock-ups make it look like a hybrid of an inflatable toy and the Concord. The company behind the Dream Catcher is the Sierra Nevada, one of the three companies that won the rights to transport cargo from earth to the ISS between 2019 and 2024. The modern design makes it possible for the craft to dock with the ISS to provide fast access to both passengers and cargo.
The spacecraft comes in both manned and unmanned models. The manned one can take up to seven crew members while the unmanned one has a payload capacity of 5,500 kilograms. Both of these go beyond the requirements stipulated by NASA in the original documents.
The space plane measures only 9 meters in length, and it is one-quarter of the size of models it is replacing. The NASA requirements read that the craft needs to “Fly frequently, travel safely, land on (most) runways, and operate economically.” The Dream Chaser has yet to go through a series of test to ensure its aerodynamic properties that can help to tweak its flight software and control system performance. NASA’s Armstrong Research Centre is conducting the tests to complete the requirements of the contract that asks for the SNC to begin cargo deliveries in 2019, and fly for a minimum of six missions until the end of the contract in 2024.
The other two companies holding the ISS cargo contract are SpaceX and Orbital ATK. Space X’s Falcon 9 has already proven its reusability, and more ships in the future will bring back experiments, crew, and other items from up there.