Dream Chaser Set to Begin Test Flights Soon

Dream Chaser Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation

Dream Chaser
Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation

Sierra Nevada Corporation has announced that it is preparing to ship its Dream Chaser test article to California for a renewed round of flight tests as it works towards a 2019 debut under NASA’s CRS-2 resupply contract. SNC’s press release, included below, highlights the fact that the flight test article will include components and systems of the actual vehicle which is under development.

After a long and at times frustrating period of attempting to secure a contract which would allow the mini-shuttle to be built to completion, SNC found its moment when NASA’s CRS-2 awards were announced on January 14th of this year. Those awards are to cover supply to the International Space Station through 2024, and saw Dream Chaser, which will fly in automated mode, added to serve alongside SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo vessels in keeping the station fully outfitted.


When Dream Chaser makes its first ride to orbit aboard an Atlas V, it will join a remarkable mixed fleet of American spacecraft which also will include the crew version of SpaceX’s Dragon, as well as Boeing’s CST-100/Starliner crew vessel. Yes, that is five distinct vehicles on three separate rockets. For a U.S. space program which was declared dead by so many as the Space Shuttle Atlantis rolled to wheel stop on July 29th 2011, it is truly amazing what a different environment we are living in just five years later.

SNC Press Release

SPARKS, Nev. (July 28, 2016) Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser full-scale, flight test vehicle is ready for transportation to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) in California where Phase Two flight tests will be conducted in coordination with Edwards Air Force Base (AFB). Dream Chaser programupgrades and initial hardware testing were completed at the Louisville, Colorado spacecraft assembly facility, and within the next several weeks the same Dream Chaser vehicle that conducted Phase One flight testing will arrive at NASA’s AFRC. Upon arrival, SNC will begin a series of pre-flight ground evaluations to verify and validate the vehicle’s system and subsystem designs. After successful completion of all ground testing, Dream Chaser will begin its Phase Two free-flight testing. These activities are being conducted through a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

“Dream Chaser continues to make strong progress toward orbital flight,” said Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area. “In addition to Phase Two flight testing, our on-timecompletion of the first two milestones under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract in the last two months positions us well to be on-schedule for orbital operational flight. We are very grateful for all the support we have received from NASA and the U.S. Air Force, and are excited to continue the legacy of historic flight testing that is the hallmark of NASA AFRC and Edwards AFB.”

What Are We Testing?
The vehicle will undergo a series of tests building on those performed in Phase One, including tow-tests, pre-flight tests and ending with free-flight testing. SNC is also performing additional critical tests to validate the Dream Chaser’s orbital flight software and calculate the spacecraft’s handling and performance characteristics. Along with other pre-flight and post-flight evaluations, this data will be used to confirm Dream Chaser’s subsonic aerodynamic properties as well as flight software and control system performance requirements.

“These tests are significant for us in multiple ways; building on our previous flight test, completing a significant milestone under our CCP agreement, as well as gathering crucial data that will help complete the design of the vehicle being built for our CRS-2 contract,” said Sirangelo.

CCP Testing Supports CRS-2 Development
The Phase Two flight test efforts will be highly supportive of, and executed in parallel with continued work being done by SNC under the NASA CRS-2 program. The Dream Chaser test vehicle has been upgraded to include several hardware and software components being integrated into the Dream Chaser Cargo System design for the CRS-2 program, allowing for actual flight testing of the new components. The flight tests will act as a bridge between previous work with CCP and the next-generation vehicle currently under development for the forthcoming International Space Station cargo resupply missions.

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