NASA and Sierra Space Transport Dream Chaser to Florida Ahead of Launch Preparations

22nd May 2024
NASA and Sierra Space Transport Dream Chaser to Florida Ahead of Launch Preparations

In a move by NASA to bolster commercial resupply missions in low Earth orbit, Sierra Space’s unmanned spaceplane reached the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, preparing for its inaugural journey to the ISS.

Dubbed Tenacity, the Dream Chaser spaceplane was delivered to Kennedy on 18th May, housed within a climate-regulated transport container from NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio. It was united with its counterpart, the Shooting Star cargo module, which had reached the location earlier on 11th May. 

From Rigorous Testing to Kennedy’s Final Preparations

Before reaching Kennedy, the spaceplane and its accompanying cargo module were subjected to rigorous vibration testing using the world’s largest and most powerful spacecraft shaker system, located within NASA’s Space Environments Complex. This process effectively simulated the intense vibrations expected during takeoff and return to the Earth’s atmosphere. 

After completing the vibration tests, the spacecraft pair was transferred to the agency’s In-Space Propulsion Facility, where they were further tested by being exposed to significantly low ambient pressures and temperatures fluctuating between -150 and 300 degrees (Fahrenheit).

Dream Chaser Tenacity was transported to the Space Systems Processing Facility at Kennedy, NASA reports. There, it entered the high bay for its final series of preparations for launch, which is scheduled for later this year.

Dream Chaser, NASA
Dream Chaser Tenacity, Sierra Space’s uncrewed cargo spaceplane, is processed inside the Space Systems Processing Facility (SSPF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday, 20th May, 2024. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Slated for launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Launch Complex-41 aboard a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Rocket, the spaceplane is tasked with transporting 7,800 pounds of supplies to the space station. 

The final preparation at Kennedy prior to flight involves tests for electromagnetic and acoustic interference and compatibility, the integration of the final payload, and the finishing touches on the spaceplane’s thermal protection system. 

A New Era in Space Station Resupply Missions

The Dream Chaser spaceplane, with its distinctive 30-foot lifting body and unique winged design, offers a modern approach to ferrying cargo to low Earth orbit, reminiscent of the NASA shuttle’s runway landings. Its 15-foot Shooting Star module, a testament to its versatility, allows it to carry up to 7,000 pounds of internal cargo and offers external payload mounts.

Furthermore, as the inaugural spacecraft of Sierra Space’s fleet, Dream Chaser Tenacity will undergo rigorous orbital testing to certify its readiness for future missions.

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