Dream Chaser Teams with Stratolaunch to Carry People into Space

Scaled shuttle to work with Rutan's carrier plane.

Dream Chaser and Stratolaunch

Dream Chaser and Stratolaunch

Dream Chaser and Stratolaunch Air Launch System

The Dream Chaser, a reusable crewed space shuttle currently under development by Sierra Nevada Corporation, may one day carry people into space with the help of Stratolaunch's massive carrier plane, the brainchild of aviation legend Burt Rutan and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The news comes on the heels of Sierra Nevada Corporation's announcement that it will legally challenge NASA's decision to snub the company's bid for a Commercial Crew Transportation contract in favor of the competition's two other proposals, submitted by Boeing and SpaceX.

Despite that setback, the company plans to build a scaled version of the Dream Chaser that can be used with the Startolaunch plane to carry three people into space or serve a variety of unmanned cargo or research missions.

"Combining a scaled version of SNC's Dream Chaser with the Stratolaunch air launch system could provide a highly responsive capability with the potential to reach a variety of LEO destinations and return astronauts or payloads to a U.S. runway within 24 hours," said Chuck Beames, executive director of Stratolaunch Systems.

The original Dream Chaser, which has been undergoing development and flight testing for the past four years, has seating for up to seven and is designed to launch from an Atlas V rocket. The Stratolaunch carrier plane, an aircraft powered by six Boeing 747 engines that company officials say will be "the largest aircraft ever constructed," has been in the works since its first announcement at the end of 2011 and is designed to carry a 490,000-pound rocket — or now the scaled Dream Chaser — to high altitude for a launch into orbit.

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