Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser, resembling a shuttle, recently underwent rigorous testing at a NASA facility to simulate the harsh conditions of space missions. This marks a significant milestone as the company gears up for its inaugural flight to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.
The spacecraft, named Tenacity, was assembled at Sierra Space’s facility in Colorado before being transported to NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio. There, it underwent testing in the Mechanical Vibration Facility, renowned as the most potent spacecraft shaker system globally.
Following this, the spacecraft will undergo further testing in a vast vacuum chamber to simulate extreme temperatures and low pressure, replicating the conditions of space. Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice expressed excitement about the upcoming orbital operations, emphasizing the transformative nature of connecting Earth and space.
Dream Chaser, reminiscent of NASA’s retired Space Shuttle, boasts a smaller size and autonomous flight capability. Its innovative propulsion system, which utilizes clean-burning hydrogen peroxide, allows for reusability for up to 15 missions.
Sierra Space secured a contract in 2016 to conduct resupply missions to the ISS for NASA. The first flight, scheduled for this year, will carry cargo atop the United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket. Unlike traditional capsule landings, Dream Chaser’s ability to land on runways worldwide enhances its appeal to potential clients.
While initial missions will focus on cargo delivery, future iterations will accommodate crew. This aligns with NASA’s objective to stimulate a private economy in low Earth orbit, allowing the agency to concentrate on ambitious lunar and Martian missions.
Sierra Space’s diverse projects include the development of Orbital Reef, a commercial space station, demonstrating the company’s commitment to advancing space exploration and commercialization.