Sierra Space Dream Chaser space plane arrives in Florida ahead of first-ever flight

Sierra Space's Dream Chaser spaceplane safely made it to Florida's Kennedy Space Center ahead of its inaugural flight test later this year.

Reminiscent of the historic Space Shuttle vehicle, Sierra Space's Dream Chaser is designed to carry cargo to the International Space Station and then land back on Earth on an airport-style runway. And, someday, it may even be how people can travel to space and experience it firsthand.

Dream Chaser has been undergoing environmental testing in Ohio, but is expected to complete additional testing in Florida prior to its first-ever flight later this year, according to Sierra Space.

"Our capability is different than what is happening right now in the cargo world," said Angie Wise, chief safety officer for Sierra Space.

Sierra Space describes its Dream Chaser as the "only commercial runway capable spaceplane." The vehicle would launch to the International Space Station aboard a rocket, dock there, and then return to Earth. However, instead of splashdown in the ocean, Dream Chase would land on a runway, similarly to how a commercial airplane lands at the airport.

Sierra Space has plans to conduct seven cargo missions to the International Space Station in partnership with NASA and ULA. The first is scheduled for later 2024, though a specific date has not been scheduled.

"I think there’s an entire generation of space enthusiasts who have never seen something like this happen before in real time," said Florida Tech professor and space systems director Don Platt.

Sierra Space touted the speed that its spaceplane will land allowing a softer landing for potentially sensitive equipment aboard.

"If you’re returning a very sensitive experiment from space, this space plane will be much more gentle in how it brings it back to land pretty softly," said Platt. 

While the plane is expected to land at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, Wise said its plane could land at any airport or spaceports across the country.

"We think that Dream Chaser is going to change the way that we travel to space," said Wise. 

On its maiden voyage, it will carry nearly 8,000 pounds of cargo to the astronauts aboard the ISS.

While at KSC's Space Systems Processing Facility, NASA and other officials will conduct additional environmental tests, including acoustic testing, electromagnetic interference, compatibility testing, as well as additional work on the plane's thermal protection system.