Sierra Nevada Completes NASA Milestone With Dream Chaser Glide Flight

Dream Chaser lands (Credit: NASA)

SPARKS, Nev., January 05, 2018 – Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser program passed a major NASA milestone for its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) contract with the completion of a successful Free-Flight test, which produced subsonic flight and landing performance data.

Milestone 4B validated the spacecraft’s design for a safe and reliable return of cargo services to Earth through a gentle runway landing, signaling the program is one step closer to orbital operations.

The Dream Chaser will go to the space station for at least six cargo resupply missions starting in 2020 under a separate contract, NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2).

The NASA Commercial Crew Program reviewed the data, confirming it fully met or exceeded all requirements and authorized full payment of the milestone. Additionally, SNC collected a significant amount of additional information that will be used for the final vehicle design.

“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.”

The approach and landing test included intentional maneuvers both to assess the responsiveness of the Dream Chaser to control inputs and to measure the resulting stability of the vehicle under very dynamic, stressful conditions. This showcased the aerodynamic capability of the Dream Chaser as well as performance of the integrated computer system that autonomously returned the vehicle to a safe runway landing. These are critical components for orbital missions to and from the International Space Station.

Mark Sirangelo, executive vice president for SNC’s Space Systems business area, commented, “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.”

“I want to especially thank NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Director, David McBride, the entire Armstrong team, the U.S. Air Force, NASA’s Commercial Crew and CRS2 programs, and our industry partners, including Draper Laboratories, who helped design our flight software. Most importantly, I want to say how proud I am of the SNC Dream Chaser flight and program teams who have performed above and beyond to make the flight and milestone a success,” Sirangelo added.

The Free-Flight test of the Dream Chaser was performed at Edwards Air Force Base, California on November 11. The vehicle’s next milestone will be the CRS2 Dream Chaser Critical Design Review, scheduled for 2018.

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 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 space station 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.

  • Robert G. Oler

    gogo go

  • therealdmt

    I wish they’d do a manned drop test or two while they have everything out there (piloted tests were originally planned). Of course it’s not my dime, and this will be a big project for them and focus isn’t a bad thing, but anyway, I wish

  • SamuelRoman13

    It looked like it stopped a little off center line. If they had differential braking it did not work. Maybe a nose gear is needed.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    I disagree – with regard to vehicle control, keep the ape out of the loop, if at all possible

  • windbourne

    Nope.
    If something goes wrong with pilotless, it is simply study it, find the issue, fix it and then re-do. That can be done in less than 6 months.
    If something goes wrong with a pilot, it will be YEARS before it will fly again.

  • windbourne

    It amazes me that they choose a skid plate for that, as opposed to a tire.
    I am guessing that it was done to be simple and cheap.