Space exploration is a subject that has brought together both the United States and Russia, and they man the international space station while astronauts from other countries join them as and when required. Special vehicles are needed to ferry the crew as well as cargo from the Earth to the sky lab. Therefore, in January 2016 NASA awarded contracts to three companies to undertake the task. These are SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and they have to ferry crew and cargo from 2019 through 2024 to ISS.

Sierra Nevada Corporation plans to use its mini re-usable shuttle dream chaser which is under final stages of testing at NASA's Langley setup.

These tests are expected to continue until end 2017 and will help to validate important aerodynamic properties, flight software, and control system performance of the mini shuttle.

About Dream Chaser

Daily Mail UK reports that Dream Chaser is smaller in size compared to earlier space shuttles that have been withdrawn from service. It has a capacity to carry up to seven crew members and has two variants that can be employed for either manned or unmanned missions. It is reusable and can be used for 15 or more times. Among its other utilities are remote sensing, satellite servicing, and space-trash clean-up.

The main task of SNC would be to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, and the contract is covered by NASA's Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract that starts in 2019.

Under the terms, Dream Chaser would be required to fly at least six cargo delivery missions to and from the space station by 2024. SNC plans to use the facilities of Cape Canaveral to launch its mini-shuttle which has been designed to return to Earth with loads of science experiments and other items, mostly redundant, from the station.

The future lies in Space

NASA used to be the only entity associated with space exploration and International Space Station, the sky lab, was the common platform built with the Russians. The objective was to help scientists carry out experiments on human beings, animals, and plants to cover several aspects of life in space. The retirement of America’s space shuttle was a major setback, but Russia stepped in to maintain continuity and NASA has now roped in three companies like SpaceX, Orbital ATK, and Sierra Nevada Corporation to help an international cause.

Dream Chaser will be the newest entrant.

NASA has its eyes on Mars, Moon and other planets and it also wants to capture asteroids to mine for minerals. Obviously, a scientific setup on the lines of ISS is necessary when contemplating such activities in which the ISS will act as a stepping stone.