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Dream Chaser Space Vehicle

About Dream Chaser

SNC's Dream Chaser® spacecraft is a multi-mission space utility vehicle designed for transporting crew and cargo to low-Earth orbit (LEO) destinations such as the International Space Station.

Our Dream Chaser spacecraft was selected by NASA to provide cargo delivery, return and disposal service for the space station under the Commercial Resupply Service 2 (CRS-2) contract. Dream Chaser will carry critical supplies like food, water, and science experiments and returns to Earth with a gentle runway landing. The spacecraft will provide a minimum of six cargo missions to and from the space station starting in fall 2021.

Dream Chaser Features

  • 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
  • 5,500 kg pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the space station

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

Cargo System (Uncrewed)

Sierra Nevada Corporation Dream Chaser Cargo Spacecraft

NASA selected our Dream Chaser spacecraft to provide cargo delivery, return and disposal services for the International Space Station. Under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract, Dream Chaser will provide a minimum of six cargo service missions to and from the space station starting in fall 2021.

The Dream Chaser cargo system is designed to deliver up to 5,500 kg of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the space station, including food, water, supplies and science experiments. The Dream Chaser can gently return critical cargo with a runway landing at less than 1.5 g’s. After leaving the space station, the Dream Chaser can also dispose of trash. The vehicle is designed for high reusability, reducing overall cost and a quick turnaround between missions. The ability to launch on top of multiple launch vehicles and land at a wide variety of runways makes Dream Chaser a flexible 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 pressurized and unpressurized cargo that can be carried
  • Ability to do both disposal and pressurized cargo return on every mission
  • Innovative folding-wing design allowing 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

Space System (Crewed)

Dream Chaser Spacecraft Crewed Space System

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 shuttles.

Dream Chaser Space System Specific Features Include:

  • Environmental control, life support system and seating capable of transporting a crew of up to seven and critical cargo to LEO
  • Windows for crew visibility
  • Launches without a fairing on top of a human-rated 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

Multi-Mission Solutions

The Dream Chaser spacecraft is a multi-mission vehicle that can support a variety of LEO needs. Dream Chaser can be customized for both domestic and international customers through vehicle configuration, launch site, destination, landing site, duration and a host of other variables. We have entered into agreements with multiple international space agencies and together we are developing technologies, applications and missions for Dream Chaser-based space systems.

  • Science
    • Microgravity laboratory for on-orbit science
  • Observation
    • Remote sensing for Earth and space imaging and observation
  • Manufacturing
    • Unique microgravity manufacturing and production
  • Servicing
    • Satellite servicing, deployment, assembly, retrieval, deorbit and propellant transfer

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 cargo version of the Dream Chaser spacecraft is designed to be reused 15 or more times, which is more than any other current space vehicle, making the Dream Chaser affordable and responsive. The crew version is designed for a minimum of 25 missions.

  • 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 International Space Station (Space Station) 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 International Space Station (Space Station) and the Hubble Space Telescope. However in 2011 Space Station 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 Space Station.

Associated Business Areas & Subsidiaries

Business Area Space Systems

PDF Downloads

SNC Space Systems 2019 (.pdf)

SNC Dream Chaser Spacecraft 2019 (.pdf)

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