Dream Chaser, the so-called “mini shuttle”, is set to bring back the capability of returning experiments and equipment from the International Space Station (ISS) through Earth’s atmosphere for an eventual runway landing.
As much as the vehicle resembles NASA’s Space Transportation System, better known as the space shuttle, it’s actually based on a different NASA design. NASA’s Vehicle Analysis Branch at the Langley Research Center in Virginia originally studied the lifting body design known as the HL-20. NASA researched the vehicle for more than 15 years before transferring the research to the then Sierra Nevada corporation, now Sierra Space, in 2006.
However, in discussion with NSF, representatives from Sierra Space tell us there’s still plenty of inspiration taken from the shuttle program, particularly its thermal protection system (TPS).