Sierra Space reveals the Dream Chaser Ahead of its first ISS mission6th Feb 2024
Unveiling of Dream Chaser space plane
The introduction of the Dream Chaser spaceplane, Sierra Space’s first reusable spacecraft, unfolded at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility situated in Sandusky.
The automated Dream Chaser, accompanied by its cargo components named Tenacity and Shooting Star, were arranged vertically, mirroring their launch configuration. Together, the combination reached a height of 55 feet (16.8 meters).
Image Credit: Sierra Space
“Constructing Tenacity has presented numerous challenges. We encountered various issues that required collective problem-solving, as things didn’t always work correctly initially. Over the past six years, the process of building Tenacity has been a valuable learning experience. Given the resilience and lessons gained from overcoming these challenges, there seemed no more fitting name for the spacecraft”, shared Tom Marshburn, Sierra Space’s chief medical officer.
Tenasity’s cargo and mission’s significance
On Tenacity’s first mission, it is set to transport cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA. In particular, Tenacity will transport over 7,800 pounds (3,540 kilograms) of cargo, with the potential to carry up to 11,500 pounds (5,215 kg) on subsequent missions. The space plane is specifically crafted to bring back over 3,500 pounds (1,590 kg) of cargo and experiment samples. Additionally, it can dispose of more than 8,700 pounds (3,950 kg) of waste in the cargo module during reentry.
This unmanned demonstration mission should contribute to the progress of scientific endeavors in space and further stimulate the growing economic activities in low Earth orbit.
Testing Tenacity and Shooting Star
Before their first trip, Tenacity and Shooting Star need to pass several tests. In Sandusky, they’re being tested at NASA’s Mechanical Vibration Facility. These tests imitate the tough conditions they’ll face during a mission, like the shaking during launch on a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket.
Image Credit: NASA
Several NASA astronaut crews have visited Sierra Space facilities to receive thorough training on various aspects of the vehicle. The training covers understanding the vehicle itself, as well as practicing rendezvous and proximity operations, hardware operations, and scenarios involving the transfer of cargo. Sierra Space subject matter experts lead this extensive training, which comprises both classroom instruction and hands-on practice inside a full-size mock-up of the Dream Chaser spacecraft.
The launch of Tenacity and Shooting Star to the International Space Station (ISS) is expected in the first half of this year. It will take place from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Following the liftoff, operations will involve teams from Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser Mission Control Center in Louisville, Colorado, as well as NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Their joint responsibilities include monitoring the flight, managing the spacecraft, and conducting in-orbit demonstrations crucial for certifying the system for subsequent missions.