Tenacity Prepares for April 2024 Maiden Flight after Environmental Testing at Neil Armstrong Test Facility
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s revolutionary Dream Chaser reusable spaceplane, named Tenacity, is making significant strides as it undergoes crucial environmental testing at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility. Anticipating its maiden flight to the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2024, the spaceplane aims to redefine commercial space travel.
The environmental testing at the Neil Armstrong Test Facility, located at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, focuses on analyzing Tenacity’s resilience to the demanding conditions of launch, re-entry vibrations, and the harsh environment of outer space, including extreme temperature fluctuations and vacuum conditions. This milestone follows Sierra Space’s recent completion of Tenacity and the delivery of Sierra Space’s cargo module, Shooting Star, to the testing facility.
Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice highlighted the company’s commitment to ushering in the next industrial revolution with a comprehensive turn-key solution offering “space as a service.” Dream Chaser, a highly reusable commercial spaceplane with global runway access, is a key component of this innovative platform.
The journey to this point has been marked by challenges, including rejections, legal proceedings, and engineering milestones. Named “Tenacity” in a fitting nod to its resilience, Dream Chaser was selected by NASA in January 2016 for cargo delivery to the ISS.
Dream Chaser’s goal is to provide a cost-effective method for delivering cargo and supplies to the ISS, combining rocket launch with airplane-like landings. NASA has contracted Dream Chaser for a minimum of six cargo resupply missions to the ISS during its contract, emphasizing its reusability capabilities.
The upcoming maiden flight in 2024 will involve collaboration between flight and ground controllers at the Dream Chaser Mission Control Center, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Tenacity will conduct in-flight tests, including vehicle maneuvering demonstrations within the ISS approach ellipsoid, showcasing its capabilities.
Unlike other spacecraft, Dream Chaser will dock and undock using the Canadarm2 robotic arm, adding a unique element to its mission. The first flight aims to deliver over 3,500 kilograms (7,800 pounds) to the ISS, with a docking period of approximately 45 days before returning to Earth.
Future flights are expected to enhance ISS cargo capabilities, with Dream Chaser capable of delivering up to 5,200 kilograms (11,500 pounds) of supplies and staying docked for extended periods. Its ability to return experiments and cargo to Earth, coupled with a disposal mechanism for trash during reentry, adds versatility to the spacecraft’s role in advancing outer space exploration.
As Dream Chaser progresses through testing and prepares for its historic mission, the space industry watches with anticipation, eager to witness the impact of this cutting-edge spaceplane on the future of space exploration.