Sierra Nevada Completes Dream Chaser Safety Review

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: Sierra Nevada)
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: Sierra Nevada)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) Space Systems of Louisville, Colo., has completed its first major, comprehensive safety review of its Dream Chaser Space System. This is the company’s latest paid-for-performance milestone with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), which is working with commercial space partners to develop capabilities to launch U.S. astronauts from American soil in the next few years.

The Integrated Systems Safety Analysis Review provided NASA with hazard reports and safety and reliability plans for the major components of the company’s integrated crew transportation system, including the Dream Chaser spacecraft, United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and flight and ground systems.

“Safety review milestones are critical to ensuring safety and reliability techniques and methods are incorporated into space systems design,” said Ed Mango, NASA’s CCP manager. “NASA’s participation in these reviews provides our partners with critical design experiences from past human spaceflight activities.”

SNC is developing its Dream Chaser Space System under NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, which is intended to lead to the availability of commercial human spaceflight services for government and commercial customers.

“Dream Chaser is making substantial progress toward flight with the help of our NASA team,” said Mark Sirangelo, head of SNC’s Space Systems. “The ability to openly exchange information through the work on these CCiCap milestones is invaluable for many reasons, such as communicating Dream Chaser development plans and receiving timely feedback from NASA, all of which help to improve our design and maximize safety and reliability. As we begin our flight test program we have a better and stronger program due to our partnership with NASA.”

A Dream Chaser engineering test craft is being prepared for shipment to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California this month for its first free-flight test later this year at the center. The test will provide data on the winged spacecraft’s aerodynamic performance during approach and landing on a traditional runway.

For more information about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, visit:

Editor’s Note: Sierra Nevada is running significantly behind on flight testing. The original plan was to conduct flights tests of the Dream Chaser engineering test article in April. The milestones and schedule is shown below.

Sierra Nevada Commercial Crew Milestones

1.Program Implementation Plan Review. This is an initial meeting to describe the plan for implementing the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Program, to include management planning for achieving CDR; Design, Development, Testing, and Evaluation activities; risk management to include mitigation plans, and certification activities planned during the CCiCap Base Period.August 2012Complete$30 Million
2.Integrated System Baseline Review. The Integrated System Baseline Review (ISBR) demonstrates the maturity of the baseline CTS integrated vehicle and operations design of the Dream Chaser Space System (DCSS) consisting of Dream Chaser spacecraft, Atlas launch vehicle, Mission Systems, and Ground Systems supports proceeding with the detailed CTS design.October 2012Complete$45 Million
3.Integrated System Safety Analysis Review #1. The purpose of the Integrated System Safety Analysis Review #1 is to demonstrate that the systems safety analysis of the Dream Chaser Space System (DCSS) has been advanced to a preliminary maturity level, incorporating changes resulting from the Preliminary Design Review, The DCSS consists of the Dream Chaser spacecraft, launch vehicle, ground systems and mission systems.January 2013Complete$20 Million
4.Engineering Test Article Flight Testing. The purpose of these additional free flight test(s) is to reduce risk due to aerodynamic uncertainties in the subsonic approach and landing phase of flight and to mature the Dream Chaser aerodynamic database. A minimum of one and up to five additional Engineering Test Article free flight test(s) will be completed to characterize the aerodynamics and controllability of the Dream Chaser Orbital Vehicle outer mold line configuration during the subsonic approach and landing phase.April 2013Pending$15 Million
5.SNC Investment Financing #1. This funding represents SNC’s commitment for significant investing financing. SNC to provide program co-investment of [REDACTED].July 2013Pending$12.5 Million
6.Integrated System Safety Analysis Review #2. The purpose of the Integrated System Safety Analysis Review #2 is to demonstrate that the systems safety analysis of the Dream Chaser Space System.October 2013Pending$20 Million
7.Certification Plan Review. The Certification Plan Review defines the top level strategy for certification of the DCSS that meets the objectives for the ISS Design Reference Mission described in CCT-DRM-1110 Rev Basic. SNC shall conduct a review of the verification and validation activities planned for the Dream Chaser Space System (Dream Chaser spacecraft, Atlas launch vehicle, Ground and Mission Systems).November 2013Pending$25 Million
8.Wind Tunnel Testing. The purpose of this testing is to reduce risk on both the DC vehicle and the DC/Atlas stack by maturing the DC and DCiAtias aerodynamic databases, providing improved fidelity in Reynolds number effects and control surface interactions, and will help determine pre-CDR required updates to the OML or control surface geometry if required.February 2014Pending$20 Million
9.Risk Reduction and TRL Advancement Testing. The purpose of these tests is to significantly mature all Dream Chaser systems to or beyond a CDR level.May 2014Pending$17 Million
9a.Main Propulsion and RCS Risk Reduction and TRL Advancement Testing. The purpose of these tests is to significantly mature the Dream Chaser Main Propulsion System and Reaction Control System to or beyond a CDR level. Risk reduction and Technology Readiness Level improvement tests will be completed for these systems.May 2014Pending$8 Million
TOTAL:$212.5 Million