Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser undergoes captive carry test

Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser undergoes captive carry test

Part of the Phase Two flight test efforts to advance progress toward orbital flight.

September 13, 2017
Edited by Eric Brothers

Sierra Nevada Corp.’s (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft engineering test article passed a successful captive carry test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center 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.

Owned and operated by SNC, the Dream Chaser spacecraft is a reusable, multi-mission space utility vehicle capable of transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit. 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.

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 and 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 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.

Another test, captive carry #2, will incorporate fine tuning needs or lessons learned from the first test, and once completed successfully, clears the way for the Dream Chaser free flight test scheduled later this year.