LOUISVILLE, Colo., 4 June 2012.Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) Space Systems engineers have completed a captive carry test of the company’s full-scale Dream Chaser orbital crew vehicle, intended to transport astronauts to low Earth orbit (LEO) and the International Space Station (ISS).
An Erickson Air-Crane helicopter carried the Dream Chaser flight vehicle to assess the vehicle's aerodynamic flight performance. The helicopter flew for approximately an hour, with the Dream Chaser beneath, near the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Jefferson County, Colo. Data from the test will provide SNC engineers the opportunity to evaluate and prove hardware, facilities, and ground operations in preparation for approach and landing tests, which are scheduled to take place later this year.
"The successful captive carry flight test of the Dream Chaser full-scale flight vehicle marks the beginning of SNC's flight test program, a program that could culminate in crewed missions to the International Space Station for NASA," says Steve Lindsey, former NASA astronaut and head of Dream Chaser's flight operations for SNC.
SNC is working to develop commercial crew transportation capabilities under the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Dream Chaser is designed to carry up to seven astronauts to space. It is the only spacecraft under CCDev2 that is winged and designed to land on a conventional runway, according to an SNC representative.
"This is a very positive success for the Dream Chaser team and their innovative approach," NASA CCP Program Manager Ed Mango says. "I applaud and encourage the designers and engineers to continue their efforts in meeting the objectives of the rest of their CCDev2 milestones."
Additional milestones leading up to the test included evaluating the performance of the main landing gear selected for use on the Dream Chaser flight vehicle, an interface test to demonstrate the release mechanism between the spacecraft prototype and the heavy-lift helicopter, and a thorough flight test readiness review with engineers, technical experts and representatives from SNC and NASA. Another milestone evaluated the separation system compatibility of Dream Chaser with its initial launch vehicle, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, which would be used to release the spacecraft from the rocket's second stage after it has placed the spacecraft into low Earth orbit.