Astronauts to Test Dream Chaser Flight Simulator at NASA Langley


Dream Chaser cockpit simulator. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)
Dream Chaser cockpit simulator. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — A group of NASA astronauts will be at NASA’s Langley Research Center this week to fly in a simulator that is being used to help evaluate the subsonic handling characteristics of Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems’ Dream Chaser spacecraft.
The simulation is of an approach to — and landing at — Edwards Air Force Base in California — the final 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and 60 seconds of a future Dream Chaser flight. The astronauts will evaluate how well the spacecraft would handle in a number of different atmospheric conditions as well as assess its guidance and navigation performance.

NASA Langley developed the flight control laws that are being used in its motion-based Research Flight Deck simulator, while Draper Laboratory engineers in Houston, Texas, and Cambridge, Mass., developed the guidance and navigation system software.

Reporters are invited to observe a simulation on Thursday, May 16, at 2 p.m.

The Dream Chaser is based on Langley’s Horizontal Lander (HL-20) lifting body vehicle design. HL-20 was a successor to the earlier HL-10 lifting body reentry vehicle concept developed by Langley during the 1960s, but was influenced by a Soviet era space plane design. Langley engineers had devised a development plan for the HL-20 in the 1980s and 90s, creating pilot landing scenarios in simulators, testing designs in wind tunnels and even building a full-scale model — with the help of universities — to study crew challenges.

The control laws being used in the current simulation were refined for the HL-20, but Langley engineers say they date back to research done during the development of the Space Shuttle in the 1970s.

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.

NASA Langley has collaborated with SNC in the design and development of the Dream Chaser Space System for six years.

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