CCDev Third Quarter Report: Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser - a seven-person space shuttle designed for orbital flight.

Program: NASA Commercial Crew Development (CCDev)
Sierra Nevada Corporation
Dream Chaser shuttle
Award: $20 million

Third Quarter Progress Report
(July 1-Sept. 30, 2010)

The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program continued to make excellent progress per plan during the 3rd quarter of 2010. The CCDev team conducted several internal reviews in July to ensure a proper technical plan and schedule was in place to conduct the Propulsion Module Test Firings in September. Several technical meetings were held in the month including a Reaction Control System Technical Interchange Meeting, mid-term reviews for GNC/Avionics, and a Primary Structure Design and Test Plan review. Additional management staff was added as well as experienced engineers in support of the Structures and Systems Engineering Integrated Product Teams.

In the month of August, the CCDev team continued to focus on the hybrid rocket motor test firings for Milestone 3 which occurred in September at SNC’s Poway facility. Weekly management reviews were conducted to ensure the proper technical plans and schedules were in place to conduct the testing on schedule. The key technical meeting which occurred in August was an Aerodynamics Summit. Hiring continued with an addition to our management staff and an experienced engineer was added in support of the Structures Integrated Product Team.

In the month of September, the CCDev team successfully completed Milestone 3 by conducting three independent rocket motor firings in one day. Fabrication of the structural test article continued in preparation for Milestone 4 structural testing. In addition, preparations continued to support development testing for the Dream Chaser Reaction Control System.

Editor’s Note: Sierra Nevada Corporation has said this is the same type of propulsion system that will be used on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle. So, it would seem that this project bodes well for that initiative. However, the two vehicles are quite different.

Dream Chaser will be launched into orbit aboard an Atlas V rocket. The shuttle’s smaller propulsion system will be used for orbital maneuvers. SpaceShipTwo, which must power from 50,000 feet to about 110 kilometers, uses a larger version of the engine. Scaling up the propulsion system has been a challenge, in part due to oscillations resulting from its hybrid nature.