Sierra Nevada Corporation, rejected by Nasa to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, has unveiled a cargo version of its space-shuttle Dream Chaser concept.
Hoping to win a cargo delivery contract from the American space agency, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) said its Dream Chaser Cargo has ‘the ability to exceed all of Nasa’s cargo requirements for pressurised and unpressurised cargo.’
“SNC is proud to offer Nasa a complete system that exceeds all criteria set forth by Nasa in the proposal,” said Mark N Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems. “The autonomous and upgraded Dream Chaser Cargo System is a mission variant of the Dream Chaser Space System, whose heritage includes over 10 years of development and maturation, the last five of which were completed as part of an ongoing public-private partnership between SNC and Nasa.”
The spacecraft features an innovative folding-wing design allowing it to fit inside existing fairings. This makes Dream Chaser Cargo compatible with multiple launchers, SNC said.
Like SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, the new Dream Chaser is designed to be reusable, thus offering the capability to return scientific experiments from the ISS to Earth. Dragon is currently the only vehicle offering such a capability. Esa’s ATV, Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus and the Russian Progress are all designed to burn in the atmosphere during re-entry.
Unlike Dragon, which lands in the ocean decelerated by its parachutes, the steerable plane-like Dream Chaser would land on a runway, providing immediate access to the cargo aboard.
"Dream Chaser Cargo also enables a wide portfolio of other space exploration capabilities, including servicing and construction for future space stations, satellite servicing and deployment, as well as retrieval and orbital debris removal,” Sirangelo explained.
“We are also expanding our international partnerships, and have agreements in place with many of the current ISS partners and global space agencies. Our SNC team looks forward to becoming a cargo transportation provider for NASA missions.”