|Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser|
Stratolaunch Systems, a commercial spaceflight startup company, might purchase a three-passenger version of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser in a bid to implement its goals of putting both satellites and people into orbit beginning in 2018.
Sierra Nevada recently filed a complaint against NASA for awarding commercial spaceflight contracts to its competitors, Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to develop vehicles to transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in three years, ending American dependence on Russia’s Soyuz capsule for the task.
The Colorado company is arguing its proposed vehicle, the seven-passenger Dream Chaser, would cost $900 million less than Boeing’s vehicle.
A decision on Sierra Nevada’s complaint is expected to be issued by the U.S. General Accountability Office in early January.
Stratolaunch, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, envisions using a smaller version of the Dream Chaser as part of a space transportation system it is currently developing.
Its plans include construction of a huge airplane with a 117-meter wingspan that will carry both satellites and passengers into space. The airplane,which will be powered by six 747 engines, will be capable of carrying satellites of up to 6,124 kg.
The Dream Chaser, which will have its own upper stage motor, could ride on top of the airplane, which will be capable of launching objects as high as 2000 km over the planet.
While Stratolaunch has not made a final decision on the purchase, the company’s executive director Charles Beames publicly expressed confidence in Sierra Nevada’s vehicle.
“Dream Chaser seemed to be the logical way to go. We feel pretty good that we have enough analysis there,” he said.
Allen plans to make a decision by year’s end regardless of the outcome of Sierra Nevada’s complaint against NASA.
An infusion of funding from Stratolaunch could give new life to the Dream Chaser in the wake of its failed contract bid.