The U.S. space agency NASA has selected Sierra Nevada Corp.’s (SNC's) Dream Chaser cargo system to provide a minimum of six cargo delivery, return and disposal services for the International Space Station (ISS). The agency's selection of SNC for its Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) program may enable spacecraft reusability and runway landings for U.S. cargo delivery to the ISS through 2024.

The reusable Dream Chaser spacecraft, which has been in development for more than a decade, is a variant of the spaceplane that was passed over by NASA for its Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program. The agency awarded those contracts to Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon 2.

The spacecraft can deliver 5,500 kg of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS. Image credit: SNC.The spacecraft can deliver 5,500 kg of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS. Image credit: SNC. To meet the requirements of the CRS2 program, the cargo-carrying variant features a folding-wing design that allows the spacecraft to fit inside existing launch vehicle fairings, making it compatible with a diverse range of rockets. Other features of the Dream Chaser include:

  • The ability to deliver 5,500 kg of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS, which exceeds NASA’s CRS2 RFP requirements.
  • High reusability that is intended to reduce costs and enable quick reflight.
  • Responsive pressurized cargo return capability to ensure that scientific experiments are returned promptly and without contamination.
  • Low-g re-entry and runway landing ability, which is necessary for the return of sensitive payloads.
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