This video shows the Dream Chaser spacecraft. Similar to the old Space Shuttle, it glides down to Earth, although it’s a much smaller vehicle, and would launch on top of a rocket rather than the dangerous side mount that the Shuttle used. In many ways, it’s what the Space Shuttle should have been, had it not gotten weighed down with the (in hindsight) misguided idea of being a cargo carrier.
6 thoughts on “The Dream Chaser: What the Space Shuttle should have been”
Oh that is sexy. I want two, please.
Perhaps an even better alternative is the Skylon spaceplane:
Very cool, but a couple of questions came to mind as I was reading it.
Is this useful for orbital flights? Mach 5.5 is blistering fast in the atmosphere, but it’s only about a quarter of the speed you need to get into orbit. It seems like building the remaining 75% or so of that velocity will require a lot of liquid oxygen, which of course is massive, and which sucks you back into the standard rocket paradigm.
Reentry also seems like an issue. If you’re coming in at 27,000 km/s, you’re going to need a heat shield, and it’s not clear to me how compatible a jet intake is with that.
All that said, I could see this being useful for suborbital flights.
I don’t know, to be honest!
So it appears that the intention is for Skylon to put satellites into low Earth orbit. Because of reduced liquid O2 weight and also the completely reusable nature of the craft, it would reduce the cost from the current £15,000/kg (as of 2011) to around £650/kg.
It would burn about one fifth of the propellant that would have been required by a conventional rocket.
As for re-entry, Skylon would be slowed at higher altitudes where the air is thinner. As a result, the skin of the vehicle would only reach 1,100 Kelvin. In contrast, the smaller Space Shuttle was heated to 2,000 K on its leading edge.
If all goes to plan, the first test flights could happen in 2019, and Skylon could be visiting the International Space Station by 2022. It could carry 15 tonnes of cargo to a 300 km equatorial orbit on each trip, and up to 11 tonnes to the International Space Station, almost 45% more than the capacity of the European Space Agency’s ATV vehicle.
Thanks. Just did a post on it.