Dream Chaser: the development of the heir of the BOR continues
Nasa will increase the number of private companies called upon to provide services to the International Space Station, also increasing the potential value of the contract. Orbital ATK to develop its Cygnus and SpaceX for its Dragon were again awarded by the Nasa, but also Sierra Nevada, so that it could continue development of its Dream Chaser, a cargo spacecraft that at first glance may remember the “old” Space Shuttle now retired. Overall the three companies will share between 2019 and 2024 up to 14 billion dollars.
While both the Cygnus both Dragon are cargo capsules (there will be also a version of the Dragon for the transport of a human crew), which as the Orion under development by the same Nasa and the Cst-100 by Boeing are without wings, Dream Chaser has wings, but those of this mini-reusable shuttle have their ends bent upwards.
The curious design is derived from the Russian, to be precise from the series of Soviet spaceplanes BOR, derived themselves from the project of space orbital plane MiG-105, designed in 1965 as a Soviet response to project US military X-20 Dyna-Soar. BOR-1 was tested for the first time in 1969, to arrive then to the first orbital flights of the BOR-4 in 1980.
Although the Soviets chosen to abandon the development of the BOR for the Buran, which now seem likely to have an heir, a launch of the BOR-4 took place in June 1982 drawn the attention of the Australian and American secret services.
After the explosion of the Challenger in 1986, Nasa began to think of an emergency vehicle easier than the Space Shuttle able to return safely up to 10 astronauts from that which at the time had to be the future Space Station Freedom. The vehicle should have been called HL-20, but when in 1991 the United States, Russia and other countries decided to give life to the International Space Station, the development of the HL-20 was interrupted, having decided that the vehicle for an emergency return would have been a Soyuz capsule.
Everything was frozen until a decade ago a private company, the SpaceDev (later acquired by Sierra Nevada) announced that it would resume the development of the HL-20 to create a vehicle able of transporting materials and a human crew to and from the International Space Station. Having failed to win the contract for the crew transport vehicle (won by Boeing and SpaceX), many thought that the Dream Chaser would end on a siding.
Instead Sierra Nevada has changed the layout of its spaceplane, removing six seats for astronauts and a part of life support systems, so as to create a pressurized or unpressurized cargo to 5,500 kg. So at least a part of the American space program will depend on a Soviet project of 50 years ago: when you say the jokes of history.