Sierra Nevada Completes Successful Dream Chaser Glide Flight

Dream Chaser during its captive carry flight. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev. (August 30, 2017) — Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser engineering test article passed a successful Captive Carry test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center on Wednesday as part of the Phase Two flight test efforts to advance Dream Chaser progress toward orbital flight.

“We are very pleased with results from the Captive Carry test, and everything we have seen points to a successful test with useful data for the next round of testing,” said Lee “Bru” Archambault, SNC’s director of flight operations for the Dream Chaser program.

These activities are being conducted through a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), although the Phase Two flight tests will also be highly supportive of, and executed in parallel with continued work being done by SNC under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract. The Dream Chaser test vehicle has been upgraded to include several components being integrated into the Dream Chaser Cargo System design, allowing Phase Two tests to act as a bridge between previous work with CCP and the next-generation vehicle currently under development for cargo resupply missions.

Dream Chaser is prepared for its captive-carry test. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

During Captive Carry test #1, a Columbia Helicopters Model 234-UT Chinook helicopter successfully carried the Dream Chaser to the same altitude and flight conditions Dream Chaser experiences before release on a Free Flight test.

The SNC Mission Control Center team sent commands to Dream Chaser, monitored performance and collected critical test data designed to allow the team to refine Dream Chaser systems for peak performance on the actual Free Flight test day.

The Captive Carry test obtained data, evaluated systems such as radar altimeters, flush air data system, air data probes, navigation system, as well as overall system performance in a flight environment.

Successful data analysis, flight crew and flight control team proficiency, are critical ingredients needed for Certification of Flight Readiness. All technical info from the Captive Carry flight tests will be evaluated by the SNC engineering team and shared with NASA counterparts.

This Captive Carry test is one of two scheduled for 2017. Another Captive Carry test, designated Captive Carry #2, will incorporate fine tuning needs or lessons learned from today’s test flight. A fully successful Captive Carry #2 test, once completed, clears the way for the Dream Chaser Free Flight test.

“This test is another indication the Dream Chaser is on track for meeting our key milestones on the way to orbital spaceflight. We are excited to move through the remaining ground and flight testing to help inform our CRS2 orbital vehicle design and upcoming production,” said Steve Lindsey, vice president of Space Exploration Systems for SNC.

The Free Flight test is scheduled for later this year.

About Dream Chaser Spacecraft

Owned and operated by SNC, the Dream Chaser spacecraft is a reusable, multi-mission space utility vehicle. It is capable of transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, where the International Space Station (ISS) resides, and is the only commercial, lifting-body vehicle capable of a runway landing. The Dream Chaser Cargo System was selected by NASA to provide cargo delivery and disposal services to the ISS under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract. All Dream Chaser CRS2 cargo missions are planned to land at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

About Sierra Nevada Corporation

Recognized as one of “The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Space,” Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) provides customer-focused advanced technology solutions in the areas of space, aviation, electronics and systems integration. SNC’s Space Systems business area based in Louisville, Colorado, designs and manufactures advanced spacecraft, space vehicles, rocket motors and spacecraft subsystems and components for the U.S. Government, commercial customers, as well as for the international market. SNC has more than 25 years of space heritage, participating in more than 450 successful space missions and delivering 4,000+ systems, subsystems and components around the world.

  • Lee

    Cool. But it wasn’t a glide flight…

  • Bill Douglass

    Doug – Did you ever find any after touchdown video or even a photo of the previous Dream Chaser drop test where everything went well until the fighter plane landing gear they were using collapsed? Can’t believe how tightly Sierra Nevada shut down all the visual info after the touchdown incident.

  • Bill Douglass

    Be patient Lee – it’s coming. I really like the D C concept. Bet every astronaut and every tourist would much rather go up and down to and from orbit in a space plane rather than riding backward in a capsule with no control at all.

  • Aerospike

    The landing gear did not collapse, the right landing gear just failed to extend at all.

  • Douglas Messier

    Google: dream chaser crash photos

    Several made it off of NASASpaceflight.com’s subscription only discussion boards. Whoever posted them wasn’t supposed to do so, but he did anyway.

    Been debating whether to link to it. Doing so would piss those guys off, but since they threw me off the discussion section anyway with a rather nasty note, I’m not inclined to be very nice to them.

  • Douglas Messier

    Apologies for the press release only. I’m covering this event for Space.com and just finished up edits on a story and figuring out how to send them a bunch of photos. I’ll be writing a story on the captive carry and a longer feature story for them.

    Doug

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    I just Googled it – I was able to find two or three pretty good ones. Dreamchaser got more effed up than I imagine. I don’t wish SNC any ill will, but I’m itching to see the video….

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Are you suggesting that people travelling at 15000mph and intoxicated by the illusion of control would rather be twiddling knobs, pushing pedals and wiggling sticks, in the certain knowledge that what ever they did was inferior to computer control – I agree, most people are foolish in this regard.

  • Aerospike

    As far as I could find any, there seem to only 3 pictures available, all 3 on the same tweet from some guy.
    There is one where you see DC lean over on touchdown.
    One where it tumbles through the bushes next to the runway.
    And one that apparently shows it after the crash.

    That last one still is suspicious to me. Somehow the scale seems to be awkwardly off if you compare the DC to the background, as if that Dream Chaser was only a subscale model…

    But if that picture is indeed the real DC ETA, then I disagree that it “got more effed up” than expected. I rather think it looks to be in a remarkably good shape, considering it just tumbled off the runway at somewhere above 300 km/h (anyone knows the average touchdown speed of Dream Chaser? Space Shuttle was 214-226 mph according to NASA, that’s ~350 km/h)

  • William Douglass

    Am suggesting I would much rather glide in on a runway sitting up than falling down by parachute while laying on my back.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    So, you’d rather be travelling at 250 mph at touchdown than at 8 mph ?