Dream Chaser is nearly ready to fly

Dream Chaser captive carry

Dream Chaser performs a captive carry flight above Edwards AFB in California on Thursday, suspended under a helicopter. (credit: NASA/Carla Thomas)

On Thursday, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC’s) Dream Chaser spacecraft performed a “captive carry” flight at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at California’s Edwards Air Force Base. During the two-hour test, the Dream Chaser engineering test article (ETA)—a full-sized version of the spacecraft, built for atmospheric tests—flew suspended under a helicopter at altitudes of up to 3,780 meters (12,400 feet). The test checked out a number of components of the vehicle, from its landing gear to its guidance systems.

The test was not the first time the Dream Chaser ETA has been airborne: SNC flew the vehicle during a captive carry test in Colorado in May of last year. This test, though, comes on the heels of a series of taxi tests at Dryden, where a truck towed the vehicle at speeds of up to nearly 100 km/h (60 mph) on the Edwards AFB runway. These tests set the stage for the first glide flight of Dream Chaser, planned for some time this fall (by the end of September, by some accounts.)

Despite these developments, the Dream Chaser remains something of an underdog in NASA’s commercial crew program. Last August, it received one of three Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) awards from NASA, but its award was a “half-sized” award, valued at $212.5 million. The other two awardees, Boeing and SpaceX, received larger awards: $450 million and $440 million, respectively. That has not deterred the company, though. “One of the milestones we had was an internal funding milestone that we just completed,” SNC’s Robert Bell said at the DC-X 20th anniversary event in Alamogordo, New Mexico, last week. “The corporation is still standing behind us as we move forward.”

Earlier this month, SNC also picked up some additional funded milestones to its CCiCap agreement. One milestone, an incremental design review slated for October, is valued at $5 million, while an incremental reaction control system testing milestone planned for next July is worth $10 million; that brings the total funded value of SNC’s agreement to $227.5 million. However, both Boeing and SpaceX also won additional milestones, valued at $20 million for each company.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>