I’ve always been a sucker for spaceplanes. The idea of taking off in a sleek aircraft, heading to space, and then using it to come back for a smooth landing was once so science-fictiony. I loved it! It’s what many of us hoped the age of the space shuttles would bring to space flight. To a large extent, they did bring the dream alive beginning in 1981. When the shuttle program ended in 2011, we all looked around for a viable replacement. Today, NASA is counting on Apollo-style capsules on rockets to get people and goods to space. That’s all fine and good, but a good spaceplane is needed. As it turns out, one is on the horizon.
The Dream Chaser Spaceplane
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser spaceplane, compared to a space shuttle. Artist’s concept courtesy SNC.
Enter the Dream Chaser. It’s a sleek little reusable shuttle about a quarter the size of the space shuttle, but the ability to carry cargo and/or up to seven astronauts to space. It’s been under development by the Sierra Nevada Corporation since the early 2000s. Dream Chaser’s history is much older and derives from ideas and designs dating back to the dawn of ...