Meet the ‘Dream Chaser,’ the Supersonic Space Craft Taking on Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic

Will the supersonic Dream Chaser soon compete with Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin in the space tourism race? That's the plan - eventually.
Sierra Space is developing the Dream Chaser as the world's "first and only winged commercial spaceplane". The aircraft is designed to take off on a rocket and then return to earth on its own wings and land itself, much like the original space shuttle designs.
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The company said it has signed a letter of intent with Spaceport America to use its 12,000-foot runway in southern New Mexico. Sierra said it expands the list of compatible locations 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 the UK.
The spaceplane will serve as a cargo transporter to the ISS and eventually transport astronauts and tourists to a private space station. - Photo credit: Courtesy of Sierra Space
Courtesy of Sierra Space
The Dream Chaser is based on a circa 1990 NASA design concept called the HL-20. During a test in 2013, the vehicle failed to deploy part of its landing gear and skidded down the runway. Since then, the company has focused on a cargo version, scheduled to fly seven missions from 2023 to deliver 12,000 pounds of resupply to the ISS.
But Sierra said it always had a "multi-mission" version planned that will carry three to seven astronauts. According to the company, the manned version should be ready by 2025.
An illustrator's vision of the Dream Chaser landing at Spaceport America. - Photo credit: Courtesy of Sierra Space
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 enable the delivery of "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 provide affordable access to space for all," said Tom Vice, CEO of Sierra Space, in announcing the agreement .
Spaceport America has 6,000 square miles of restricted airspace, a 12,000-foot by 200-foot runway, and vertical launch complexes. Virgin Galactic launched its first Unity22 mission there last year.
The company also announced a new facility to train private astronauts. - Photo credit: Courtesy of Sierra Space
Courtesy of Sierra Space
Sierra Space also announced plans to open the first commercial manned space center and astronaut training academy. dr Janet Kavindi, a veteran NASA astronaut, will lead the new facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
Kavindi envisages that a variety of astronauts will be trained at the facility, including professional astronauts who will spend months in space and "experience" astronauts or private individuals who wish to visit Orbital Reef, which is being conceived as the world's first private space station.
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