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Dream Chaser Space Vehicle

About Dream Chaser

Our Dream Chaser® spacecraft has been in development for more than 10 years, including six years as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and leverages more than 40 years of X-vehicle and NASA space shuttle heritage. We have received funding from NASA as well as made our own significant investments to mature the Dream Chaser vehicle. In 2016, Dream Chaser was selected by NASA under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract to transport pressurized and unpressurized cargo to and from the ISS with return and disposal services.

Dream Chaser features include:

  • Lifting-body spacecraft
  • Autonomous launch, flight and landing capabilities (does not require a pilot)
  • High reusability, 15+ times
  • Low 1.5 g atmospheric entry
  • Gentle, commercial runway landing compatible with runways worldwide
  • Immediate access to crew or cargo upon landing
  • All non-toxic consumables, including propellants

The advantages of Dream Chaser extend well beyond ISS resupply. The spacecraft affords opportunities for continued advanced developments in the areas of: servicing for future space stations; satellite servicing/deployment and retrieval; orbital debris removal and serving as a test for exploration technologies. We have begun discussions with multiple international agencies regarding the use of Dream Chaser on a global scale, designing Dream Chaser to be a solution for a wide range of missions and clients, bringing global access to space closer than ever.

There are currently two Dream Chaser variants optimized specifically for either uncrewed or crewed missions, known as the Dream Chaser Cargo System and Dream Chaser Space System, respectively. Additional variants may be developed for future mission needs.

Variants

  • Space System (Crewed)
  • Cargo System (Uncrewed)
  • Multi-Mission Solutions

Space System (Crewed)

The Dream Chaser Space System is designed to be optionally piloted and transport up to seven crew members and cargo to LEO destinations with a gentle return to a runway landing. Our Dream Chaser spacecraft is 30 feet, or 9 meters, long which is roughly ¼ the total length of the Space Shuttle orbiters. The spacecraft can carry the same crew size as the Space Shuttle orbiters and can remain docked to the ISS considerably longer.

Dream Chaser Space System Specific Features Include:

  • Environmental control, life support system and seating capable of transporting a crew of seven and critical cargo to LEO
  • Windows for crew visibility
  • Launches without a fairing on top of a human-rated United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the ability to safely abort to a runway in the event of an emergency
  • Integral main propulsion system for abort capability and major orbital maneuvers

Cargo System (Uncrewed)

Dream Chaser® Cargo System (uncrewed) In January 2016, NASA selected our Dream Chaser Cargo System to provide cargo delivery, return and disposal services for the International Space Station (ISS). Under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract, Dream Chaser will provide a minimum of six cargo service missions to and from the ISS between 2019 and 2024.

The Dream Chaser Cargo System is designed to deliver up to 5,500 kg of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS with the ability to conduct orbital disposal services and responsively return pressurized cargo at less than 1.5 g’s to a gentle runway landing. The vehicle is designed for high reusability, reducing overall cost and providing rapid turnaround for re-flight opportunities. The ability to launch on top of multiple launch vehicles and land at a wide variety of runways makes Dream Chaser a flexible and viable option for reliable transportation.

Dream Chaser Cargo System Specific Features Include:

  • Disposable cargo module that attaches to the Dream Chaser vehicle, greatly increasing the amount of upmass pressurized and unpressurized cargo that can be carried
  • Ability to do both orbital disposal and pressurized cargo return on every mission
  • Innovative folding-wing design allows the uncrewed Dream Chaser spacecraft to fit inside existing standard launch vehicle fairings, making it compatible with a suite of current and future launch vehicles.
  • Solar arrays on the cargo module increase flight time in space and support powered payloads

Multi-Mission Solutions

The Dream Chaser spacecraft is being designed as a multi-mission space utility vehicle that is able to operate as an independent science platform, logistics enabler or orbital servicing vehicle with the ability to deploy, retrieve, repair, refuel or assemble items in space. To support these missions, Dream Chaser can be customized through vehicle configuration, launch site, destination, landing site, duration and a host of other variables.

Dream Chaser can be customized to suit the mission needs of both domestic and international customers. We have entered into several agreements with multiple international space agencies and organizations. Together we are partnering on the development of technologies, applications and missions for Dream Chaser based space systems that promote the goals of the agency. We aim to engage with in-country government laboratories, commercial companies, and universities to utilize their advancements where possible and design and create flight opportunities to qualify space technologies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • The Dream Chaser spacecraft is owned and operated by SNC. Although design, manufacturing and assembly is based in Louisville, Colorado, we have assembled a world-class “Dream Team” of aerospace companies, NASA centers, universities and international partners all collaborating to ensure the Dream Chaser is the safest, most reliable spacecraft in the world. We have established cooperative agreements with international space agencies collectively representing almost two dozen spacefaring countries with a heritage of success that includes hundreds of missions. For NASA missions, vehicle refurbishment between flights will be performed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

  • A typical airplane has large wings that provide the lift to keep the vehicle in the air. While Dream Chaser does have small winglets, or fins, to provide directional stability in flight, the lift is created by the body of the vehicle (the underside) which is wide and flat. Our gentle low-g reentry allows us to build Thermal Protection System (TPS) and an overall vehicle that is fully reusable with pin-point landing capability enabled by the lifting-body characteristics. The lifting-body design gives Dream Chaser a higher lift-to-drag ratio and allows for greater cross-range landing capability, meaning the landing zone (or places where it can land) is greatly increased.

  • Since Dream Chaser uses all non-toxic consumables, including propellants, there are no environmental or safety hazards that require unique ground support infrastructure. As a result, it has the potential to land anywhere that has a suitable 10,000 ft runway capable of handling a typical large passenger airplane (like a Boeing 737 or Airbus 320). Almost immediately after landing, the Dream Chaser spacecraft offers access to cargo and crew. Additionally, a runway landing substantially increases safety and reduces risk because runways are developed, maintained and operated to strict domestic and international standards. With other spacecraft, such as capsules, a distant splash down into an ocean or remote landing crew and cargo retrieval is more labor intensive, takes longer to complete, requires more support infrastructure and introduces risk - including those related to injured crew or sensitive cargo. For scientists, researchers, and medical personnel, the benefits of the near-immediate accessibility afforded by runway landings are unmatched.

  • Dream Chaser will experience atmospheric entry with a maximum of only 1.5 g’s throughout the flight profile, which is considerably less than existing capsule-based orbital return systems, or even most roller coasters! This attribute makes the Dream Chaser vehicle ideal for sensitive payloads and deconditioned or injured crew members returning from space.

  • Our Dream Chaser spacecraft can be reused 15 or more times, which is more than any other current space vehicle, making the Dream Chaser affordable and responsive.

  • Right now the Dream Chaser spacecraft is designed as a Space Utility Vehicle (SUV) for LEO. The spacecraft is capable of docking or berthing to the ISS and can perform a variety of other missions in LEO including: remote sensing, satellite servicing; free-flying, self-contained science or manufacturing; serving as an exploration testbed, or performing active debris removal (cleaning up space trash).

  • The Dream Chaser spacecraft third-generation design builds upon four decades of NASA development (i.e., HL-20, and lifting-body space shuttle legacy). Dream Chaser is 30 feet (or 9 meters) long which is roughly ¼ the total length of the Space Shuttle orbiters. The Space Shuttle was designed with a spacious cargo bay to allow it to carry large structures to space such as components for the ISS and the Hubble Space Telescope. However in 2011 ISS construction was completed, therefore, NASA no longer needs such a large cargo vehicle to transport hardware or cargo to and from LEO. Instead, NASA now needs smaller, more efficient transportation systems to transport cargo and crew to and from the ISS.

  • There have been dozens of tests on all major subsystems performed to date which include: extensive thermal heat-shield testing, wind tunnel tests, environmental impact tests, system-level tests, flight software analysis, reaction control systems tests and many, many more. A full-scale, autonomous atmospheric free-flight test was conducted at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center/Edwards Air Force Base, California in late 2013. With this historic test flight, SNC was able to test, and verify, the full aerodynamic and ground performance of the vehicle. This was the first test conducted on a lifting-body spacecraft in over 40 years.

About the Dream Chaser® Dream Team

Our Dream Chaser® “Dream Team” consists of vital aerospace industry members from around the world. We are also creating significant opportunities for the next generation of aerospace professionals by working cooperatively with nine U.S. universities and recruiting interns and young professionals to harness the most innovative minds across the country. In addition, our space act agreements allow the Dream Team to work with the talented personnel at nine NASA Centers and facilities. We have also established cooperative agreements with international space agencies collectively representing 21 spacefaring countries with a heritage of success that includes hundreds of missions.

United States

  • AdamWorks
  • Aerojet Rocketdyne
  • Airborne Systems
  • Arctic Slope Research Corporation
  • BioServe Space Technologies
  • Cobham/Carleton Technologies Inc
  • Craig Technologies
  • David Clark Company
  • Draper Laboratory
  • Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense
  • Erickson Air Crane
  • ESI
  • Houston Spaceport
  • Ingenium
  • Jacobs
  • Keystone Engineering
  • Kord Technologies
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Moog Broad Reach
  • Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITEC)
  • San Diego Composites
  • SGT, Inc.
  • Siemens PLM Software
  • Southwest Research Institute (SwRI)
  • Space Florida
  • Special Aerospace Services
  • Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc.
  • Triumph Aerospace Systems
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA)
  • UTC Aerospace Systems
  • VACCO
  • Valcor Engineering Corp
  • Wendell Hull & Associates

NASA Centers (Reimbursable Space Act Agreements)

  • Ames Research Center
  • Armstrong Flight Research Center
  • Glenn Research Center
  • Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Johnson Space Center
  • Kennedy Space Center
  • Langley Research Center and NESC
  • Marshall Space Flight Center
  • Michoud Assembly Facility

Universities (Reimbursable Space Act Agreements)

  • Rice Space Institute
  • The Georgia Institute of Technology
  • The University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Texas A&M University
  • Tuskegee University
  • University of Alabama Birmingham
  • University of Colorado Boulder and BioServe Space Technologies
  • University of Maryland, College Park
  • Utah State University

International

  • AIRBUS Defense & Space
  • CGS S.p.A.
  • European Space Agency
  • German Aerospace Center
  • GMV
  • Italian Air Force
  • Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
  • MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA)
  • OHB Systems AG
  • QinetiQ
  • RUAG Space
  • SENER
  • Space Applications Services

Associated Business Areas & Subsidiaries

Business Area Space Systems

Related News

Sierra Nevada Corporation Selects United Launch Alliance Atlas V for first two Dream Chaser® Spacecraft Missions
July 19, 2017

Sierra Nevada Corporation Completes Dream Chaser® Milestones for Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities Program
April 25, 2013

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