08 January 2018 News

Dream Chaser passes major NASA milestone

Dream Chaser landing. Image: NASA
Dream Chaser landing. Image: NASA

After the successful completion of its Free-Flight test, the Dream Chaser program is on target to resupply the International Space Station from 2020, as part of its contract with NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) program.

Owned and operated by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the Dream Chaser spacecraft is a reusable, multi-mission space utility vehicle that is capable of transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit – the home of the International Space Station (ISS).

The approach and landing test was designed to examine the responsiveness of Dream Chaser to control inputs and to measure the resulting stability of the vehicle under very dynamic, stressful conditions. Along with the craft’s aerodynamic capability, the integrated computer system that autonomously returns the vehicle to a safe runway landing was also tested and monitored.

“The test was a huge success and when we looked at the data, we were thrilled to see how closely our flight performance projections matched the actual flight data,” said Steve Lindsey, vice president of SNC’s Space Exploration Systems business unit. “This gives us high confidence in our atmospheric flight performance as we move towards orbital operations.”

Mark Sirangelo, executive vice president for SNC’s Space Systems business area, added, “Achievements of this magnitude require the involvement and collaboration of many people. The Free-Flight test took place at the same historic location where the sound barrier was broken 70 years ago and where the Space Shuttle program began 40 years ago. With that historic legacy, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to our whole flight team.”

The Dream Chaser spacecraft has been in development for more than 10 years, and it is the only commercial, lifting-body vehicle capable of a runway landing.

It is one half of a system optimised specifically for either uncrewed or crewed missions, known as the Dream Chaser Cargo System and Dream Chaser Space System, respectively. The Cargo System side was selected by NASA to provide cargo delivery and disposal services to the ISS over six years ago and the passing of milestone 4B signals that the program is one step closer to orbital operations.

However, SNC stipulate that Dream Chaser is not just limited to resupplying the ISS. Once fully operational, the craft can be put to use in satellite servicing/deployment and retrieval, orbital debris removal and serving as a test for exploration technologies.

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