Supersonic ‘Dream Chaser’ plans to rival Blue Origin in space

Will the supersonic Dream Chaser soon be in competition with Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin in the race for space tourism? That’s the plan – eventually.

Sierra Space is developing the Dream Chaser as the world’s “first and only winged commercial spaceplane”. The plane is designed to take off atop a rocket and then return to Earth on its own, landing similar to the original space shuttle designs.

The company said it signed a memorandum of understanding with Spaceport America to use its 12,000-foot runway in southern New Mexico. Sierra said it is expanding the list of compatible sites where the Dream Chaser can land, including the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as well as airports in Alabama, Japan and Spaceport Cornwall in UK.

The spaceplane will serve as a cargo transport to the ISS and then eventually ferry astronauts and tourists to a private space station.

Courtesy of Sierra Space

The Dream Chaser is based on a NASA design concept called HL-20 from around 1990. During a test in 2013, the craft failed to deploy part of its landing gear and skidded on the track. The company has since focused on a cargo version, which is expected to fly seven missions to deliver 12,000 pounds of supplies to the ISS from 2023.

But Sierra said it still plans a “multi-mission” version that will carry three to seven astronauts. The crewed version would be ready by 2025, according to the company.

Sierra Space Dream Chaser Spaceport America

An illustrator’s vision of Dream Chaser landing at Spaceport America.

Courtesy of Sierra Space

The announcement of the partnership with Spaceport America is part of Sierra’s plans to build a global network that would deliver “high-value payloads.”

“We are creating space technology hubs within the commercial space ecosystem and adding Spaceport America as a potential landing site for Dream Chaser to continue to open up affordable access to space for everyone,” said the CEO of Tom Vice Sierra Space, announcing the deal.

Spaceport America has 6,000 square miles of restricted airspace, a 12,000-by-200-foot runway, and vertical launch complexes. Virgin Galactic launched its first Unity22 mission there last year.

Sierra Space Astronaut Training Center

The company also announced a new facility to train private astronauts.

Courtesy of Sierra Space

Sierra Space also announced plans to open the world’s first commercial manned spaceflight center and an astronaut training academy. Dr. Janet Kavindi, a veteran NASA astronaut, will lead NASA’s new Kennedy Space Center facility.

Kavindi anticipates that a variety of astronauts will be trained at the facility, including career astronauts who will spend months in space and “experimental” astronauts, or private citizens, who wish to visit Orbital Reef, which is planned as the first private space station in the world.

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