When NASA retired the Space Shuttle in 2011, the average person’s last hope of entering the cosmos was seemingly extinguished along with it. Sure, one’s chances of getting onto a shuttle were always slim, but people from many walks of life had been selected for space missions over the years, including Sunita Williams, the first marathon runner in space, Eileen Collins the first woman to serve as mission commander, and Guion Bluford the first African American in space.
But ever since spacefaring vessels started spending more hours in museums and less time in the cosmos, it’s been hard to reimagine humankind’s place in the beyond-Earth domain. Still, space programs in other nations continued to take off (literally) over the years. And in combination with the efforts of semi-private, companies like SpaceX, American astronauts found their way to orbital locales like the International Space Station (ISS).
But a massive symbolic gulf remains between the joy of a toy spaceship zooming in a child’s hand and the need to hitch a ride on someone’s rocket. Beginning with its Dream Chaser® spaceplane, scheduled for use in NASA operations starting in 2023, privately funded Sierra Space intends to renew and more importantly, reinspire public trust and enthusiasm in celestial exploration.
Scheduled for launch via the brand-new Vulcan Centaur rocket, the Dream Chaser is the world’s only winged commercial spaceplane. It represents the start of an entirely new era of space transportation, unleashing an unprecedented commercial space economy. In 2023, the Dream Chaser is slated for its first official NASA mission. Loaded atop a Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle, the reusable spaceplane will demonstrate its ability to reach the International Space Station (ISS), bearing a full payload of cargo weighing 12,000 pounds.
Offering a smooth 1.5 G re-entry experience, NASA has booked the next-generation Dream Chaser for multiple future missions, with regular government launches expected from thereon out. As the Dream Chaser begins regular missions, it is sure to be in hot demand as its capabilities and flexibility for other missions becomes apparent.
The Dream Chaser won’t purely be for our government customer, however. Sierra Space intends for it to carry anyone into space with plans to visit existing destinations, like the ISS, or planned orbital habitats like Orbital Reef a partnership between Sierra Space and Blue Origin. Composed of interconnected Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE™) modules, transported into space attached to the Dream Chaser, and inflated in orbit, Orbital Reef will provide spacious accommodations for research, business, and other purposes.
One day, humanity may be liberated from the need of spaceplanes by glorious, towering space elevators or other far-out means of escaping Earth’s gravity—that for now remain the stuff of science fiction. Presently, Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser is enabling a host of space reentry efforts sure to make space exploration more of a reality and science fact once again. Capable of landing on any suitable runway worldwide, the Dream Chaser can drop off entrepreneurs, researchers, diplomats, and other voyagers into the beyond-Earth realm back on terra firma at any desired location on the planet’s surface.
Even better, within months, Sierra Space’s first Dream Chaser, named DC#1 (Tenacity), will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, carrying cargo (and later crew) into the beyond using nothing more than the private-sector ingenuity that originally gave wings to humanity’s first leaps into the sky. Satisfying the imagination of the child inside every adult who has nurtured a love of all things space for years, the Dream Chaser looks like many of the space shuttle designs we all know and love—only updated: sleeker, smaller, more modernized. It’s easy to imagine Sierra Space’s new reusable spaceplane ferrying the next generation of explorers to the stars.
The power of private-sector ingenuity will provide 21st-century space travelers safe, long-term environments in the form of inflatable LIFE habitats. Whether they’re staying in low-Earth orbit or venturing on to the Moon or Mars, Sierra Space has generated key technologies to keep the next generation of discoverers surprisingly comfortable in far-flung locations beyond our planet’s atmosphere.
When an unexpected retreat from the space domain deflated aspirations of so many adventuring spirits, the power of innovation struck back in the form of brand-new technologies making it easier and more rewarding to escape Earth’s gravity than ever before. Kept stagnant for far too long by impediments that are now evaporating, Sierra Space is reigniting the vibrancy of space exploration. Amazing advancements to come, thanks to space becoming an environment to live and work, promise to improve life on Earth in so many ways. Sierra Space is dedicated to enabling humanity’s next great leap into space by harnessing the power of the Dream Chaser spaceplane and other game changing technologies to come.