Space technology is an ever evolving entity always bettering itself in the mad race to conquer space. Recently, the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) revealed an unmanned, completely autonomous spacecraft that is designed to carry cargo into orbit. SNC has constructed this version of Dream Chaser in hopes of winning a contract with NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2).
An Atlas V or Ariane V rocket can launch the Dream Chaser. The first Dream Chaser was originally created for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in order to cart passengers, crew and cargo to the International Space Station; however, it lost to SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft. The original Dream Chaser could carry seven passengers and crew and landed like a glider. Although SNC appealed the decision, it was denied by the US Government Accountability Office.
SNC hopes their new unmanned version will be considered for the CRS2 contract to provide cargo for the International Space Station as their new round of spacecraft.
The two versions of Dream Chaser are similar, according to SNC, in their configurations. For instance, both versions are lifting bodies, powered by hybrid rocket engines using hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) as well as nitrous oxide. Both space planes can also be launched from an Atlas V rocket.
Some differences include things like life support and control systems for crew members to control the manned version. The unmanned Dream Chaser has pressurised and unpressurised areas for cargo as well as wings that can fold. This enables the unmanned version to fit inside the fairing used for Ariane V rockets.
Maybe if people continue to further research into space travel, the final frontier may not seem so far away after all?
[Image via Space]