Private space company Sierra Nevada Corporation announced today that its mini-spaceplane, the Dream Chaser, will launch into orbit on top of the United Launch Alliance’s future Vulcan Centaur rocket.
The Dream Chaser has yet to see space, but once it’s operational, it will help ferry cargo and science experiments to the astronauts on board the International Space Station between 2021 and 2024.
Image: ULA Originally, the company envisioned launching the Dream Chaser on ULA’s Atlas V to carry astronauts to and from the ISS for NASA, and the team even received initial development funding from the space agency to work on a crewed vehicle.
So SNC decided to rework the Dream Chaser to just carry cargo, and the company is now tasked with launching a total of 12,000 pounds of cargo on a minimum of six supply missions for NASA.
“You could actually, in an emergency even today, bring people down If you had to,” John Curry, the program director for Dream Chaser’s cargo missions, said at the press conference.
SNC has other plans for its Dream Chaser, including launching international payloads to space for the United Nations as early as 2021.
In the meantime, SNC has been doing tests on the Dream Chaser, and it performed the vehicle’s second free flight in 2017, demonstrating that the spaceplane can land successfully from a super high altitude.