Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems, also known as SNC, is currently preparing for the first launch of their Dream Chaser. A cargo vehicle set to launch sometime during 2020. Preparations include a decision on which rocket their future missions will use.
The first of the Dream Chasers multiple missions will be in the fall or winter of 2020 and will be to the International Space Station. SNC will be fulfilling their contract with Nasa for commercial resupply services. A contract that they were awarded two years ago. The mission will be launched on an Atlas 5 rocket.
SNC has received a contract with United Launch Alliance, or ULA, which covers two of the Dream Chaser launches. The first to take place in 2020, and the second a year later in 2021. So far, both launches are set to use the largest Atlas 5 rocket in existence. Equipped with a Centaur upper stage dual-engine and five solid rocket boosters to boot.
The company believes the Atlas 5 is more than proven and well suited for the two missions. They have had a lengthy relationship with ULA as well. Executive V.P. of SNC, Mark Sirangelo, has voiced his opinion on the matter. “It is a very well proven rocket. We have a long relationship with United Launch Alliance. We think it is a good way to start.”
The exec has also stated that SNC has been exploring alternative options for the later Dream Chaser missions. In regards to this matter, Sirangelo has mentioned that they are basically looking at all available launch systems as it is a pivotal point in the launch industry. New systems are being developed left and right by launch companies.
Sirangelo has declined to speak on which exact vehicles have been under consideration by SNC for the future Dream Chaser cargo missions but has mentioned that the company will more than likely be ready to announce their decision by the end of 2018.
He also mentioned that it is not necessarily a requirement to launch from the U.S. as there are no specific requirements of this in the contract with NASA. Sirangelo further went on to point out that NASA has used both Japenese and European cargo vehicles in the past in order to resupply the ISS that Dream Chaser has signed up to resupply.
Production of the first Dream Chaser vehicle is set to start very soon. Parts will begin arriving as early as May of 2018. The new cargo vehicle is undergoing its critical design review at the moment and everything is progressing smoothly according to SNC.
The Dream Chaser cargo vehicle is currently going through its critical design review (CDR), said Steve Lindsey, vice president at SNC Space Exploration Systems. That review should be completed by July.