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World's first commercial space plane being built at Sierra Space facility in Louisville

Dream Chaser expected to launch in 2023
Dream Chaser
Dream Chaser
Posted at 9:37 PM, Oct 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-31 08:25:53-04

LOUISVILLE, Colo. — It’s been years in the making, and it’s happening right here in Colorado.

Dream Chaser, the world’s first commercial space plane, is being built at the Sierra Space facility in Louisville. It’s the company's first large-scale contract with NASA.

“The primary purpose right now is for our NASA contract. We have seven missions to and from the International Space Station to take cargo to the astronauts onboard,” said Angie Wise, senior vice president of mission assurance at Sierra Space.

Wise says Dream Chaser will be doing — at minimum — those seven missions.

What’s unique about this commercially accessible space plane is that it will land on a runway, unlike some capsules that crash into the ocean or on land.

“With a runway landing, it provides a more gentle re-entry, and immediate access to the cargo onboard,” Wise explained.

Denver7 toured the production floor where Dream Chaser is being built.

“Right now, they’re installing the thermal protection system and landing gears,” said Wise.

No astronauts will be onboard when it launches in 2023, and it will stay on the ISS for 35 to 75 days before flying back to Earth without a crew.

“We have the guidance, navigation and control all onboard the vehicle, so it knows how to fly itself back on the runway,” said Wise.

Another thing that’s unique about Dream Chaser is it can be refurbished so it can be launched again and again.

Sierra Space COO Jeff Babione said the opportunities within Dream Chaser are endless.

“In our future, we have a Dream Chaser DC200 version, where we will bring crew first, hopefully, to the International Space Station,” he said.

The company hopes to deliver cargo to any major airport.

“Let’s say we brought up an experiment for a biopharma lab, we could bring that right down to the runway closest to the city they’re working in,” said Babione.

Wise said new projects like Dream Chaser could eventually allow us the opportunity to discover new technologies that could benefit life on Earth.

“This is the start of a new revolution of space,” said Wise.

Once Dream Chaser is finished, it will be sent to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio, where it will undergo an environmental test series. Then, it will travel down to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for her launch next year.