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Private Spaceplane “Dream Chaser” Will Hitch Ride To Space On ULA’s Newest Rocket

Rendering of Dream Chaser in flight. The spacecraft will ship supplies to the International Space Station for NASA. Photo: Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Sierra Nevada Corporation has picked a rocket provider to send its mini-space shuttle on supply runs to the International Space Station.

The spacecraft will launch from Cape Canaveral and berth with the station. Once it has completed its stay at the orbiting outpost, it will glide back to Earth like the Space Shuttle and land at Kennedy Space Center.

“We commit to you that we are going to bring all of our experience, all of our skill and disciple in launching this vehicle to space,” said ULA President Tory Bruno.  “We have flown 134 times, we have never failed to take our mission to space, and we will not fail you.”

It will be the first commercial launch of ULA’s Vulcan rocket — the private company’s next-generation launch vehicle. ULA is bending steel for the first rocket which is targeting a launch from Cape Canaveral in 2020.

Bruno said the company’s Atlas V rocket can also launch Dream Chaser if Vulcan development falls behind schedule.

NASA selected the Dream Chaser for its second round of the commercial cargo program. The agency currently pays private companies SpaceX and Northrop Grumman to transport supplies to the space station.

Sierra Nevada Corporation submitted the Dream Chaser for NASA’s Commercial Crew program. The agency awarded SpaceX and Boeing with contracts to ferry astronauts to the station. While the crew transport program left Dream Chaser out, Sierra Nevada Corporation said the cargo version of the Dream Chaser could one day also launch astronauts — if NASA wanted.

The Dream Chaser is scheduled to launch in 2021, the start of at least six resupply missions on the contract.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »