Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser gets wings and tail, starts ground testing

Jul 15, 2013 by Ken Kremer, Universe Today
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser successfully rolls through two tow tests at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California in preparation for future flight testing later this year.

Sierra Nevada Corporation's winged Dream Chaser engineering test article is moving forward with a series of ground tests at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California that will soon lead to dramatic aerial flight tests throughout 2013.

Pathfinding tow tests on Dryden's concrete runway aim to validate the performance of the vehicles' nose skid, brakes, tires and other systems to prove that it can safely land an astronaut crew after surviving the searing re-entry from Earth orbit.

The Dream Chaser is one of the three types of private sector 'space taxis' being developed with NASA seed money to restore America's capability to blast humans to Earth orbit from American soil – a capability which was totally lost following the forced shutdown of NASA's Space Shuttle program in 2011.

For the initial ground tests, the article was pulled by a tow truck at 10 and 20 MPH. Later this month tow speeds will be ramped up to 40 to 60 MPH.

Final assembly of the Dream Chaser test vehicle was completed at Dryden with installation of the wings and tail, following shipment from SNC's Space Systems headquarters in Louisville, Colo.

Watch this exciting minute-long, time-lapse video showing attachment of the wings and tail:

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

In the next phase later this year, Sierra Nevada will conduct airborne captive carry tests using an Erickson Skycrane helicopter.

Atmospheric drop tests of the engineering test article in an autonomous free flight mode for Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) will follow to check the aerodynamic handling.

The engineering test article is a full sized vehicle.

Dream Chaser is a reusable mini shuttle that launches from the Florida Space Coast atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and lands on the shuttle landing facility (SLF) runway at the Kennedy Space Center, like the Space Shuttle.

Dream Chaser awaits launch atop Atlas V rocket.

"It's not outfitted for orbital flight. It is outfitted for atmospheric flight tests," said Marc Sirangelo, Sierra Nevada Corp. vice president and SNC Space Systems chairman, to Universe Today.

"The best analogy is it's very similar to what NASA did in the shuttle program with the Enterprise, creating a vehicle that would allow it to do significant flights whose design then would filter into the final vehicle for orbital flight," Sirangelo told me.

Sierra Nevada Corp, along with Boeing and SpaceX are working with NASA in a public-private partnership using a combination of NASA seed money and company funds.

Each company was awarded contracts under NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Initiative, or CCiCap, program, the third in a series of contracts aimed at kick starting the development of the private sector 'space taxis' to fly US and partner astronauts to and from low Earth orbit (LEO) and the International Space Station (ISS).

"We are the emotional successors to the shuttle," says Sirangelo. "Our target was to repatriate that industry back to the United States, and that's what we're doing."

The combined value of NASA's Phase 1 CCiCap contracts is about $1.1 Billion and runs through March 2014.

Dream Chaser commercial crew vehicle built by Sierra Nevada Corp docks at ISS.

Phase 2 contract awards will eventually lead to actual flight units after a down selection to one or more of the companies.

Everything depends on NASA's approved budget, which seems headed for steep cuts in excess of a billion dollars if the Republican dominated US House has its way.

The Commercial Crew program's goal is to ensure the nation has safe, reliable and affordable crew transportation systems to space.

"Unique public-private partnerships like the one between NASA and Sierra Nevada Corporation are creating an industry capable of building the next generation of rockets and spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the scientific proving ground of low-Earth orbit," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations in Washington, in a statement.

"NASA centers around the country paved the way for 50 years of American human spaceflight, and they're actively working with our partners to test innovative commercial space systems that will continue to ensure American leadership in exploration and discovery."

All three commercial vehicles – the Boeing CST-100; SpaceX Dragon and Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser – are designed to carry a crew of up to 7 astronauts and remain docked at the ISS for more than 6 months.

The first orbital flight test of the Dream Chaser is not expected before 2016 and could be further delayed if NASA's budget is again slashed by the Congress – as was done the past few years.

In the meantime, US astronauts are totally dependent on Russia's Soyuz capsule for rides to the ISS. NASA must pay Russia upwards of $70 million per seat until the taxis are ready for liftoff – perhaps in 2017.

"We have got to get Commercial Crew funded, or we're going to be paying the Russians forever," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at Dryden. "Without Commercial Crew, we probably won't have exploration."

Concurrently, NASA is developing the Orion Crew capsule for missions to the Moon, Asteroids and beyond to Mars and other destinations in our Solar System.

Explore further: SpaceX making Easter delivery of station supplies (Update 2)

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User comments : 15

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bearly
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 15, 2013
Outdated technology. What a waste of taxpayer money.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 15, 2013
Outdated technology. What a waste of taxpayer money.
Boy I'll say
http://www.youtub...ykz7TixE
GSwift7
2 / 5 (4) Jul 15, 2013
Not really outdated, just overly engineered. It'll cost several times more, take longer to build, require several times more maintenance, fail more often, and become obsolete faster because it's difficult to upgrade. Not to mention the wasteful use of internal and external space and weight.

Lol, Dragon has its own solar panels. The only way this thing is getting solar panels is if you attach a Dragon to it, which kinda defeats the purpose.

Not to mention that Dragon is designed to land on the moon or Mars. I'd like to see an Earth atmosphere glide lander try that. Ouch.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (5) Jul 15, 2013
I look forward to the day when this little buggy contains all the energy it needs to reach orbit and return all by itself. And the only solar panels will be in antimatter factories in tight solar orbits. Square miles of them.
ScottyB
1 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2013

Outdated technology. What a waste of taxpayer money.

Tax payers money?? its a privily funded company.. how are tax payer dollars involved?! hahah!
GSwift7
5 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2013
will be in antimatter factories in tight solar orbits. Square miles of them


Uh huh.

I want my spaceship to be made of candy, with a crew of Victoria's Secret cyborg-models, ...and kittens that never grow up.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Jul 16, 2013
Uh huh.

I want my spaceship to be made of candy, with a crew of Victoria's Secret cyborg-models, ...and kittens that never grow up.
Sorry gs you'll have to be a little more specific. Is it that you are not aware of the rate of progress in the various technologies which will make this sort of thing a reality within the next 2 centuries, or that you just don't care to know? Or is it that you enjoy demonstrating your stunted sense of humor for the studio audience?

Which? What?

But you're probably right - solar power stations will probably be beaming their power to antimatter factories farther out. We'll have to wait and see won't we?

Once robotics and AI reach maturity we will be constructing amazing things of incredible complexity.

I suggest a little Kim Stanley Robinson to update your knowledge of potentialities.
GSwift7
5 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2013
Oh, I agree. A future that looks exactly like comicon is just around the corner.

Seriously, if you study the history of future predictions, it's not very good. You're likely wrong in every prediction you've ever made. The truth will be amazing, and nothing like what you expect it to be like.

Yes, I read the Mars trillogy many years ago. Lots of fun, but sadly lacking in hard science. If you think very many of the things he's got in that series are possible, then I can see the source of your confused frustration when people try to bring you back to reality.

But you're probably right


Well, at least one thing you said today was spot on. :) You gotta admit that was good.
GSwift7
5 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2013
Let's keep our future predicting really really simple, just as an example of why you're likely to be soooo wrong:

Here's four choices for cell phones, pick which is correct:

1)Batteries will last longer, but phones will just incrementally advance
2)Phones will do tons more and batteries will last about the same due to more power demand
3)Batteries will last longer AND phones do tons more stuff
4)We won't use batteries at all

Trying to predict which of those, if any, will be true in 5 years is virtually impossible, even for industry experts, who's investments depend on it.

Your attempts to predict 15, 20 or 100 years ahead are absurd. The confluence of millions of butterfly effects overlapping forms the future. You are not Hari Seldon, inventor of psychohistory.

BTW, have you seen the trailers for the Ender's Game movie?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2013
Seriously, if you study the history of future predictions, it's not very good. You're likely wrong in every prediction you've ever made. The truth will be amazing, and nothing like what you expect it to be like
Well thats not true. Futurists predicted nuclear submarines, airplanes, trips to the moon, and communications satellites.

But solar orbit power stations and antimatter production are not predictions. They are real potentialities which scientists are spending time and money studying. This is done to better direct the development of technologies which will make them feasible.

See the difference?
Trying to predict which of those, if any, will be true in 5 years is virtually impossible, even for industry experts, who's investments depend on it
No its not. Potentialities are examined by scientists and engineers in light of current progress in order to decide where best to apply time and effort.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Jul 16, 2013
Your attempts to predict 15, 20 or 100 years ahead are absurd
But scientists and engineers do it all the time. Youre claiming that they are wasting their time has no effect on this. At all.

I would suggest doing a little research on what they are doing and why they are doing it.
http://www.kurzweilai.net/
http://www.nss.or...oday.htm
https://en.wikipe...Futurist

Some Plans and Preparations have to be made far in advance. Strategic defense is only one of the many reasons that we need to know as much about the future as we possibly can.

""Futures studies"—often referred to as futurology—can be summarized as being concerned with "three P's and a W", i.e. "possible, probable, and preferable" futures, plus "wildcards", which are low-probability, high-impact events, should they occur...Thus a key part of futures analysis is the managing of uncertainty and risk.
https://en.wikipe..._studies
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2013
but sadly lacking in hard science
Ahaahaaa how would you know? I think I'll trust robinsons explanation of the lengths he goes to research the science which he weaves into his stories.

"What makes Robinson's work vital, rather than just entertaining, is his depth of the research."

"[KSR] Science News has an uncanny way of publishing articles that pertain to my current project, such that by the end of any novel I have piled up a stack of issues, opened to the articles I am using..."
http://www.theatl.../274392/
http://kimstanley...on.info/
GSwift7
3.3 / 5 (3) Jul 17, 2013
Futurists predicted nuclear submarines, airplanes, trips to the moon, and communications satellites


lol, that's just a matter of coincidence. Lots more things were 'predicted' that did not come true. If you have an unlimited number of guesses, and you guess every possible answer, then one of your answers will be the right one. From your point of view, if I buy enough lottery tickets so that I can play every possible winning number, then I successfully predicted the winning number.

There are so many people trying to predict the future that all the possible outcomes are covered. The military plans for all of the most likely scenarios, that's how they handle it. Companies hedge their bets by buying patents of things they might need in the future.

Robinson had a few logical predictions, and some lucky guesses about what Mars is like as well. He also has a bunch of technology that is unlikely from an engineering point of view. The space elevator and terraforming, for example.
Eikka
not rated yet Jul 20, 2013
Is it that you are not aware of the rate of progress in the various technologies which will make this sort of thing a reality within the next 2 centuries


You do realize that you're demanding for some energy-carrying substance that contains the energy of hundreds of tons of liquid hydrogen? There are no known or even imagined means to store and release that sort of energy in such a small mass, especially knowing that you also need reaction mass to drive the vehicle besides just having the energy, so nuclear reactors are out of the count as well.

What you're proposing is Jetsons' technology. It's so beyond the technology curve that it requires cartoon physics.

Here's four choices for cell phones, pick which is correct:


You forgot the fact that cellphones are ultimately limited by how much waste heat they can emit. Having a better battery to deal with higher power demands is moot, when the cellphone causes first degree burns to the hands that hold it.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2013
I would suggest doing a little research on what they are doing and why they are doing it.


Ray Kurtzweil's basic fallacy is extrapolating without reason. The concept of self-accelerating growth ignores all the underlying reality that makes it happen in the first place.

Many processes in nature, and in technology, are autocatalytic. That means they accelerate their own growth, but here's the snag: autocatalytic systems typically follow sigmoid curves - not exponential curves. They appear the same at the beginning, but the difference is that the sigmoid function turns flat once the system hits diminishing returns.

The Moore's law is an example of an autocatalytic system where advanced integrated electronics help develop more advanced integrated electronics. There's already signs that the progress is slowing down, despite the fact that people keep changing the definition of the law to make it appear that it's still growing.

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