Commercial traffic at the International Space Station (ISS) is set to get more congested with news that the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has been given the green light for its Dream Chaser spacecraft to visit the orbital laboratory in late 2020. The Authority to Proceed notification opens the way for SNC's unmanned cargo ship to undertake its first mission under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services Contract 2 (CRS2).
Though SNC missed out on NASA's first round of cargo contracts for the International Space Station (ISS), which went to SpaceX and Orbital ATK, the builder of the lifting body spacecraft that looks like a miniature Space Shuttle made the second round in 2016. According to SNC CEO Faith Ozmen, the Dream Chaser met its critical design milestones and now has a launch timetable.
The first mission hasn't been outlined in any detail, but the Dream Chaser boasts a number of capabilities for various mission configurations. It can handle cargoes of up to 5,500 kg (12,125 lb) in pressurized and unpressurized areas, remain berthed with the ISS for extended periods, can act as a flying laboratory that can operate by remote control, has power for science payloads, can host experiments in both the pressure cabin and unpressurized cargo areas, and can bring back up to Earth 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) of cargo for a landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF).
"The Dream Chaser is going to be a tremendous help to the critical science and research happening on the space station," says Mark Sirangelo, executive vice president of SNC's Space Systems business area. "Receiving NASA's Authority to Proceed is a big step for the program. We can't wait to see the vehicle return to Kennedy Space Center to a runway landing, allowing immediate access to the science payloads being returned from the station."
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