Space

Unmanned version of Dream Chaser spaceplane unveiled

Unmanned version of Dream Chas...
Artist's impression of the unmanned Dream Chaser in orbit (Image: SNC)
Artist's impression of the unmanned Dream Chaser in orbit (Image: SNC)
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The unmanned Dream Chaser can be launched by an Atlas V or Ariane V rocket (Image: SNC)
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The unmanned Dream Chaser can be launched by an Atlas V or Ariane V rocket (Image: SNC)
Artist's impression of the unmanned Dream Chaser docking with the ISS (Image: SNC)
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Artist's impression of the unmanned Dream Chaser docking with the ISS (Image: SNC)
Artist's impression of the unmanned Dream Chaser with wings folded inside a launch fairing (Image: SNC)
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Artist's impression of the unmanned Dream Chaser with wings folded inside a launch fairing (Image: SNC)
Artist's impression of the unmanned Dream Chaser in orbit (Image: SNC)
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Artist's impression of the unmanned Dream Chaser in orbit (Image: SNC)
cutaeay view unmanned Dream Chaser (Image: SNC)
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cutaeay view unmanned Dream Chaser (Image: SNC)
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Though the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Dream Chaser spaceplane was kicked out of the running to ferry crew to the International Space Station (ISS), a variation on the craft may still end up visiting the station. As part of its bid to win NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract, SNC has unveiled an unmanned autonomous version of Dream Chaser to carry cargo into orbit.

The original Dream Chaser was the standout entry for NASA's Commercial Crew Program to provide reusable spacecraft for cargo and passenger service to the ISS. Where the competitors looked like throwbacks to the 1960s with their capsule designs, Dream Chaser was a winged lifting body that was designed to carry seven passengers and crew and lands like a glider on a conventional runway after a low-g re-entry.

As it turned out, the Dream Chaser lost out to SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft. SNC challenged the decision, but the U.S. Government Accountability Office denied the protest.

Now an unmanned version is being put forward for the CRS2 contract to select the next round of spacecraft to provide cargo spacecraft for the ISS.

cutaeay view unmanned Dream Chaser (Image: SNC)
cutaeay view unmanned Dream Chaser (Image: SNC)

According to SNC, the unmanned variant of Dream Chaser is similar to the manned version in its basic configuration. Both are lifting bodies that are powered by a hybrid rocket engine burning hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) and nitrous oxide, and both can be launched from atop an Atlas V rocket. The main differences, aside from lacking of the life support and control systems needed for the manned variant, are that the unmanned Dreamchaser has pressurized and unpressurized cargo areas, and the wings are foldable, so it can be fitted inside a the fairing used for Ariane V rocket launches.

Source: SNC

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3 comments
Anton Dubov
Take a look at this link. Does it looks similar? http://www.buran-energia.com/bor/bor-desc.php
Tom Lee Mullins
It reminds me of the lifting body design that was developed many years ago. I think it is a nice design.
TheHighFrontier
Here's an article dealing with the evolution of Dream Chaser's shape. As Anton points out there is a big Soviet influence!
https://thehighfrontier.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/dream-chaser-dna-a-story-of-spaceplane-evolution/