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Sierra Space Unveils The Dream Chaser Spaceplane Ahead Of Its First Flight To The ISS

On February 1, NASA and Colorado-based Sierra Space provided a detailed look at the Dream Chaser, a private spaceplane that will make its first flight to the ISS this year.

The event took place at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Site. Dream Chaser and its cargo module—vehicles named “Tenacity” and “Shooting Star”—were stacked vertically, as they would be at launch. The height of the “duet” was 16.8 meters.

Now the docked Dream Chaser and Shooting Star are installed on the world’s largest vibration table, which simulates the mechanical vibrations and stresses that the spacecraft experiences during launch and engine operation. The set of vibration tests will continue for several more days. Upon successful completion of these tests, Dream Chaser, dubbed Tenacity, will go into the world’s only high-altitude vacuum chamber, the size of which can accommodate a full-fledged rocket engine and launch vehicle. Here Tenacity will be tested against pressure and temperature changes similar to those it will encounter during the mission.

Once testing is complete, Sierra Space will send Tenacity to Kennedy Space Center for launch on a Vulcan Centaur rocket developed by United Launch Alliance (ULA). This is the second launch of ULA’s new heavy rocket, the first being the launch of the Peregrine lunar lander, which was unable to reach the Moon due to a fuel leak.

In 2016, Sierra Space received a multi-year Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS2) contract from NASA to support at least six cargo delivery missions to the ISS.

NASA continues to partner with US private industry when it comes to transporting cargo and delivering astronauts to the ISS. For example, the agency signed commercial agreements with Boeing and SpaceX back in 2014. Elon Musk’s company has already launched seven crew sets on the ISS and is preparing for the eighth. Boeing intends to make the first test launch of the Starliner capsule with a crew this spring.

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