Sierra Nevada Corp.’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 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 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 Dream Chaser free-flight test was made at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Nov. 11, 2017. The vehicle’s next milestone will be the CRS2 Dream Chaser Critical Design Review, scheduled for 2018.