The Dream Chaser™ spaceship has a long and successful history. The vehicle is based on the NASA Langley Research Center’s ten passenger orbital HL-20, also known as the Personnel Launch System and the Space Taxi. The HL-20, in turn, was based on the Soviet BOR-4, and thus has a significant orbital heritage.
The Soviet BOR-4 (left) was a successful, orbital, autonomous re-entry vehicle, intended to be the basis of their human access to space. As the U.S. Shuttle was developed, the Soviet Union progressed to the BOR-5, and then the Buran, a copy of the U.S. Shuttle, leaving the safe and affordable BOR-4 behind.
Similarly, after receiving intelligence agency photos of the BOR-4, NASA spent ten years, from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, analyzing and improving the design, with over 1,200 wind tunnel and computer tests, to refine and perfect the shape of the outer mold line (OML). The end result was the HL-20 lifting body vehicle.
Since then, SpaceDev, a successful and rapidly growing public space technology developer, has taken those designs and refined them further. Adapting the vehicle to accommodate its highly successful hybrid rocket engines, the vehicle, now known as the SpaceDev Dream Chaser, is being prepared for many roles to space: commercial, government, and military. SpaceDev selected the NASA HL-20 Space Taxi design because of its space-based heritage, derived from successful Soviet orbital missions, and the refinements added by NASA.
The Dream Chaser launches vertically, from a simple concrete pad, and with wings and its lifting body shape, has the ability to perform a graceful, careful re-entry into the atmosphere and glide significant distances to its standard, commercial runway.
The Dream Chaser propulsion system uses non-explosive hybrid rocket motors, directly evolved and improved from the safe and successful hybrid rocket motors SpaceDev developed and flew on Paul Allen’s historic SpaceShipOne.
The Rocket Motors
SpaceDev is a publicly-traded company that specializes in hybrid rocket motors and other advanced space technologies. All rocket motors consist of two propellants: a fuel and an oxidizer to make the fuel burn. Traditional rocket motors use two liquids or combine the two into a solid propellant. Both liquid and solid rocket motors are extremely dangerous and explosive and are rated by the U.S. Air Force in tons of TNT equivalent. Hybrid rocket motors, developed and used by SpaceDev, combine a solid fuel (inert synthetic rubber) and a liquid oxidizer (non-toxic nitrous oxide – N2O, also known as laughing gas). As a result, SpaceDev hybrid rocket motors are inherently safe, non-explosive, non-toxic, are easy to fabricate, transport and store, plus they have a TNT equivalence of zero
SpaceDev designed and developed the key hybrid propulsion technology for Paul Allen’s groundbreaking SpaceShipOne and integrated, tested and delivered all the motors used in that manned space flight program to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize. SpaceDev will use improved, higher performance versions of those same motors in the suborbital Dream Chaser designed and manufactured for Benson Space.
SpaceDev maintains a 100 percent success rate for delivery of contracted projects in multiple areas of space technology, including the CHIP Satellite still in operation, as well as past and current projects with NASA and the United States Air Force.
Benson Space is currently considering a variety of potential launch sites, including the Mojave Spaceport in California, the Kennedy Space Center and Titusville’s Space Coast in Florida, the Southwest Regional Spaceport in New Mexico, the Maryland and Virginia Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport near NASA Wallops, and Nevada.
The Mission Control Center will be state of the art, with training and educational facilities including a Space Vehicle Maintenance Lab that provides personal, hands-on spacecraft visiting opportunities for families to get inside an actual ship, Astronaut Preparation facilities that will eventually include exclusive first-class hotel accommodations, an ultra-modern Launch Viewing Lounge for family and friends to have a gourmet experience while watching their loved ones make history in the New Space Age, runways and The LaunchPad.