NASA unveils long-awaited replacement to the Space Shuttle

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

NASA has revealed its latest reusable space vehicle, the ‘Dream Chaser’, which will follow in the footsteps of the Space Shuttle programme. The craft is currently in its early test phase with more tests planned before the end of 2017. Once fully developed, the vehicle will be used to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Dream Chaser is built by the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) which is one of the three companies that won the rights to transport cargo between earth and the ISS from 2019 to 2024. The ship has two models: a manned version that can take up to seven crew members; and an unmanned version that will be able to carry up to 5,500kg of payload.

The ship is 9 metres long, roughly one-quarter of the size of the Space Shuttle. NASA states that the craft needs to 'Fly frequently, travel safely, land on (most) runways, and operate economically'.

Like SpaceX, SNC plans for the Dream Chaser to land back on Earth, bringing with it experiments, crew and other items from the ISS. Previous cargo ships were filled with rubbish from the station and burned up on re-entry into Earth.

The next rounds of testing on the Dream Chaser at NASA's Armstrong Research Centre will confirm its aerodynamic properties while tweaking its flight software and control system performance.

SNC will start delivering cargo in 2019 and will fly at least six delivery and recovery missions until its contract ends in 2024.


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