Sierra Space states that “safety remains at the core of the Dream Chaser’s mission.” If all goes as planned and the spaceplane eventually transports astronauts, obviously their well-being — as well as that of ISS crew members interacting with the craft — will be a top concern. But the company is just as devoted to protecting its cargo, especially since preserving the integrity of certain scientific payloads is crucial to the experiments being performed by NASA. As such, Sierra Space built Dream Chaser with “advanced safety mechanisms” to protect the spaceplane and its contents. Additionally, its innovative design allows reentry at fewer than 1.5 g to better preserve sensitive cargo.
Sierra Space also hopes the Dream Chaser will make space travel a more sustainable venture. The company says it spent years developing a new propulsion and oxidizer-fuel system that is more eco-friendly than its predecessors. The high reusability of the spacecraft will also go a long way toward sustainability, as will its adaptability for a wide range of missions, limiting the need to construct new spacecraft. By being capable of landing on commercial runaways and having a rapid turnaround time before starting its next mission into space, the Dream Chaser will mean fewer low-Earth orbit vehicles need to be built.
The Dream Chaser’s maiden voyage is expected to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, with Tenacity being carried into orbit on United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket. The spaceplane will complete its first return trip by landing at the NASA Space Shuttle Landing Facility.