Dream Chaser enters final testing ahead of 2024 debut space flight

a winged space plane with folded wings in a hangar
The new Dream Chaser space plane is seen with folded wings in preparations for its first test flight. (Image credit: Sierra Space)

Dream Chaser, Sierra Space's shuttle-shaped spacecraft, is undergoing final testing in preparation for its very first taste of space. It's called Tenacity. 

Assembly of the spacecraft was completed in early November, after which it was shipped from a Sierra Space facility in Louisville, Colorado to NASA's Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio for environmental testing, according to a Sierra Space statement.

Dream Chaser and Sierra Space's "Shooting Star" cargo module will be stacked in launch configuration, then exposed to extreme launch vibrations in the Mechanical Vibration Facility, which features the world's most powerful shaker table.

When ready, it will launch on a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket. It will lift off from Cape Canaveral and return to Space Florida's Launch and Landing Facility runway at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Vulcan Centaur is currently preparing for its first flight in January. 

Related: Meet 'Tenacity': 1st Dream Chaser space plane gets a name

Sierra Space did not offer a target date for the launch of Tenacity beyond stating it would take place in 2024. Previous reporting suggests the flight could take place as soon as April 2024.

The Dream Chaser system is designed to carry cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). Tenacity is slated for an initial seven ISS robotic cargo resupply missions. A crew version will be able to carry up to seven astronauts.

Sierra Space says it is revolutionizing space transportation with its Dream Chaser platform. The spacecraft can land on commercial runways instead of splashing down in the oceans, and can be reused for a minimum of 15 missions per system. It also boasts fully autonomous operations, and a green, hydrogen peroxide-based propulsion system. 

Along with Tenacity, a second Dream Chaser vehicle, named Reverence, is in production.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.