NASA and Sierra Space deliver the Dream Chaser spaceplane to Florida in preparation for launch

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Dream Chaser Tenacity, Sierra Space’s unmanned cargo spaceplane, is processed at the Space Systems Processing Facility (SSPF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday, May 20, 2024. The spaceplane arrived in a climate-controlled shipping container provided by Neil from the agency. Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio. Final testing and pre-launch processing will be completed at the SSPF High Bay ahead of the inaugural launch of Dream Chaser atop a ULA (United Launch Alliance) Vulcan rocket from the nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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Dream Chaser Tenacity, Sierra Space’s unmanned cargo spaceplane, is processed at the Space Systems Processing Facility (SSPF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday, May 20, 2024. The spaceplane arrived in a climate-controlled shipping container provided by Neil from the agency. Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio. Final testing and pre-launch processing will be completed at the SSPF High Bay ahead of the inaugural launch of Dream Chaser atop a ULA (United Launch Alliance) Vulcan rocket from the nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

As part of NASA’s efforts to expand commercial resupply in low Earth orbit, the Sierra Space unmanned spaceplane arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of its maiden flight to the International Space Station.

The Dream Chaser spaceplane, named Tenacity, arrived at Kennedy on May 18 in a climate-controlled shipping container from NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio, and joined the accompanying Shooting Star cargo module, which arrived on May 11.

Before arriving at Kennedy, the spaceplane and its cargo module underwent vibration testing atop the world’s most powerful and powerful spacecraft rocking system at the agency’s Space Environments Complex, exposing the stack to vibrations like those that will occur during launch and return to the space. The Earth’s atmosphere. After the vibration tests, the duo moved to NASA’s In-Space Propulsion Facility and were exposed to low ambient pressures and temperatures ranging from -150 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Upon arrival at Kennedy, teams moved Dream Chaser Tenacity to the high bay at the Space Systems Processing Facility, where it will undergo final testing and prelaunch processing ahead of liftoff, scheduled for later this year.

The spaceplane will lift off aboard a ULA (United Launch Alliance) Vulcan rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and deliver 7,800 pounds of payload to the orbiting laboratory.

The remaining pre-flight activities at Kennedy include acoustic and electromagnetic interference and compatibility testing, completion of work on the spaceplane’s thermal protection system and final payload integration.


A summary of the NASA test procedures that Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser Tenacity spaceplane underwent at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio. This included vibration testing and exposure to low ambient pressures and temperatures. Credit: NASA/Steve Logan

Dream Chaser is a space plane with a lifting body design measuring 9 meters long and 4.5 meters wide. Its unique winged design allows it to carry cargo to and from low Earth orbit and land on a runway in the style of NASA’s space shuttle. The 15-foot Shooting Star module can carry up to 7,000 pounds of cargo internally and features three unpressurized external cargo attachment points.

The partially reusable transport system will fly at least seven cargo missions to the space station as part of the agency’s efforts to expand commercial resupply services in low Earth orbit. Future missions could last as long as 75 days and deliver as much as 11,500 pounds of cargo.

Although the Dream Chaser spacecraft is reusable and can return up to 3,500 pounds of cargo to Earth, the Shooting Star module is designed to be jettisoned and burned upon re-entry, creating the potential to deliver up to 8,500 pounds of waste on each mission to delete.

Dream Chaser Tenacity is the first in a planned fleet of Sierra Space spaceplanes to help carry out these missions.

As part of the process to certify the vehicle system for future agency resupply missions, NASA and Sierra Space will put the spaceplane through its paces once it is in orbit. As Dream Chaser Tenacity approaches the space station, it will perform a series of demonstrations to prove attitude control, translational maneuvers and abort capabilities. After completing the maneuverability demonstration, space station astronauts will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grab the spacecraft and dock it to an Earth-facing dock.

After spending approximately 45 days in the orbiting laboratory, the spaceplane will be released from the station and return for a landing at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility. After landing, the Dream Chaser will shut down and the Sierra Space team will return it to the processing facility to conduct necessary inspections, offload the remaining NASA cargo and begin the preparation process for the next mission.

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