Sierra Space's 1st Dream Chaser space plane aces key tests. Next stop: Florida launch site.

close up view, from behind, of a black and white space plane in a dark room
Sierra Space's first Dream Chaser space plane, "Tenacity," recently wrapped up environmental testing in Ohio and is being prepped for shipment to its Florida launch site. (Image credit: Sierra Space)

The private Dream Chaser space plane is closer to reaching the final frontier than ever before, with a completed checklist from its environmental testing phase and preparations underway to send it to Florida for final testing ahead of launch.  

Three months ago, Space.Com gave you up-close looks at Sierra Space's inaugural Dream Chaser space plane at NASA's Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio. Since then, the robotic space plane, named "Tenacity," and its Shooting Star cargo module have successfully completed a series of assessments to prepare them for space's harsh environment, including intense shock, vibration and thermal vacuum testing. 

Preparations are now underway by Sierra Space and NASA test team members to ship the duo to NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida for the final round of testing before Dream Chaser's inaugural launch, which is expected later this year.

Related: Sierra Space unveils Dream Chaser space plane ahead of 1st flight to ISS (video)

Close-up view of part the Tenacity space plane. (Image credit: Sierra Space)

"Successful completion of an incredibly rigorous environmental testing campaign in close partnership with NASA is a significant milestone and puts Dream Chaser on track for operations later this year," Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice said in a May 9 press release. "This is the year that we transition from rigorous research and development to regular orbital operations and — in doing so — transform the way we connect space and Earth."

Once Tenacity and Shooting Star arrive in Florida, they'll head to KSC's Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) and undergo a final round of prelaunch tests. These trials will include acoustic testing, electromagnetic interference and compatibility testing, and final inspection and work on the space plane's thermal protection system.

Tenacity is the first of a planned fleet of Sierra Space space planes, which will conduct seven missions to the International Space Station as part of NASA's Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract. The second space plane in the series, named Reverence, is already in production at Sierra Space's factory in Louisville, Colorado. 

Sierra Space also envisions a crewed version of Dream Chaser carrying astronauts in the not-too-distant future.

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Meredith Garofalo
Contributing Writer

Meredith is a regional Murrow award-winning Certified Broadcast Meteorologist and science/space correspondent. She most recently was a Freelance Meteorologist for NY 1 in New York City & the 19 First Alert Weather Team in Cleveland. A self-described "Rocket Girl," Meredith's personal and professional work has drawn recognition over the last decade, including the inaugural Valparaiso University Alumni Association First Decade Achievement Award, two special reports in News 12's Climate Special "Saving Our Shores" that won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, multiple Fair Media Council Folio & Press Club of Long Island awards for meteorology & reporting, and a Long Island Business News & NYC TV Week "40 Under 40" Award.