Nov 1, 2023

After decades of dreams, a commercial spaceplane is almost ready to fly

Posted by in category: space

That’s a great step.

LOUISVILLE, Colorado—The first Dream Chaser spaceplane built to go into orbit is starting to look the part. Its foldable wings and fuselage are covered in custom-fitted ceramic tiles to shield the spacecraft’s composite structure from the scorching heat of atmospheric reentry as it flies back to Earth. It has its landing gear, and technicians buzz around the vehicle to add the finishing touches before it leaves the factory.

Inside the spacecraft, workers are installing the final ducts for the environmental control system, which will make the pressurized compartment within Dream Chaser livable for astronauts at the International Space Station. The Dream Chaser’s job, at least for now, is to ferry cargo to and from the research complex orbiting some 240 miles (385 kilometers) above Earth. It will launch on top of a conventional rocket, maneuver in space like a satellite, and then land on a runway.

Across the hall from the production floor, Sierra Space has set up a mission control room, where engineers will monitor and command the spacecraft when it’s in orbit. Down the hall, a mock-up is in place for astronauts to train on how to enter the Dream Chaser and pack and unpack cargo while it’s docked at the station.

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