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Dream Chaser will join NASA’s space cargo fleet

Image: Dream Chaser
An artist’s conception shows Sierra Nevada’s uncrewed version of the Dream Chaser space glider in orbit with a cargo module attached at the back. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corp.)

NASA says it will add Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser space glider to its cargo-carrying lineup of robotic spaceships as early as 2019. It’s likely to be the first winged vehicle to fly in orbit for NASA since the space shuttle fleet’s retirement in 2011.

“Within a few short years, the world will once again see a United States winged vehicle launch and return from space to a runway landing,” Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada Corp. Space Systems, said in a statement about the Dream Chaser’s selection.

During a televised briefing today, NASA officials said it also will continue to use SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus capsules to resupply the International Space Station in the 2019-2024 time frame. By that time, the Dragon could well be capable of touching down on land.

The upgrades in SpaceX’s robotic Dragon, along with the addition of the Dream Chaser, are expected to bring new capabilities to NASA’s orbital delivery system.

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Atlas 5 rocket sends cargo ship to space station

151206-launch
A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket rises from its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sunday, sending an uncrewed Orbital ATK Cygnus commercial cargo capsule to the International Space Station. Two Microsoft HoloLens headsets were aboard. (Credit: NASA TV)

After waiting out Florida’s weather for three days, United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket lofted supplies to the International Space Station today for the first time ever.

The Atlas rose from its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 4:44 p.m. ET (1:44 p.m. PT), sending Orbital ATK’s uncrewed Cygnus crew capsule into orbit. The space station’s commander, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, watched the launch from orbit.

Among the record-setting 7,700 pounds’ worth of supplies, experiments and hardware on board are two of Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality headsets. Once they arrive, the station’s astronauts will try them out as wearable aids for in-space operations.

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Boeing misses out on NASA cargo contract

Image: Starliner
An artist’s conception shows Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner space taxi in orbit. (Credit: Boeing)

Boeing says it’s out of the running for NASA’s next contract to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, but it’ll still be sending up cargo as well as astronauts on its CST-100 Starliner spaceship under the terms of different deal.

The update came as NASA said that its selection of contractors for the second round of commercial resupply services for the space station, previously scheduled to be announced today, would have to wait.

“CRS2 is a complex procurement,” NASA said in an emailed statement. “The anticipated award date has been revised to no later than January 30, 2016, to allow time to complete a thorough proposal evaluation and selection. Since the agency is in the process of evaluating proposals, we are in a procurement communications blackout. For that reason, NASA cannot answer questions about this procurement at this time.”

The CRS2 contracts are likely to be worth billions of dollars, and would cover a period running from 2018 to 2024.

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