NASA: CCDev 2 Partners Progressing Smoothly on Milestones

Dream Chaser cockpit simulator. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

NASA PR — NASA’s industry partners continue to demonstrate design and development progress for their commercial crew transportation systems. During the past two months, five more SAA milestones and one formal interim step for a future milestone were accomplished on the road to eventual commercial space transportation services. In total over the past eight months, NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Round 2 partners have completed 26 of the 62 milestones. (Five planned milestones were added since our last Return on Investment Report due to the new partnership with Excalibur Almaz, Inc.)

The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) successfully completed the System Definition Review for their Dream Chaser spacecraft. This major design maturation event, which took place over a period of three months, enabled SNC to assess how their design will meet low Earth orbit (LEO) transportation mission needs. Additionally, SNC successfully activated their Flight Control Integration Laboratory, which will test the Dream Chaser’s electronic and mechanical hardware that controls the vehicle’s flight path and attitude. The initial lab system was built to be adaptable, and will first be used to test actuators and control surfaces in preparation for an unpiloted free-flight test scheduled for next year.

A scale model of Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft in a wind tunnel at NASA Ames. (Credit: Boeing)

Boeing successfully completed wind tunnel testing of a scale model of their CST-100 spacecraft to measure aerodynamic factors during ascent to low Earth orbit (LEO) and emergency aborts. The data will improve computer models and analysis tools for further CST-100 design maturation and eventual certification. Additionally, Boeing accomplished an important step for their upcoming Emergency Detection System (EDS) testing milestone by completing design of the software needed to interface between the CST-100 systems and the launch vehicle’s EDS. They also verified the test plan for the EDS simulation early next year. An EDS is critical during human launches, as it provides an early warning of problems that could require a launch abort.

For this work, Boeing obtained a prototype Atlas V EDS emulator from United Launch Alliance (ULA) and is providing ULA with feedback that will help improve the EDS system. ULA is working on their EDS system under a separate unfunded SAA with NASA, so this interim milestone progress is a great example of cooperation between industry partners. ULA completed the tailored Systems Requirements and Design Review for developing a human-rated version of their existing Atlas V expendable rocket. The review included their program’s status, certification planning, requirements, and baseline conceptual design.

Excalibur Almaz's space tourism vehicle concept. (Credit: Excalibur Almaz)

NASA and Houston-based Excalibur Almaz, Inc. (EAI) have entered into a new agreement for collaboration on furthering the development of EAI’s spacecraft concept for low Earth orbit crew transportation. The agreement is an unfunded SAA, which means that NASA will provide limited technical support to EAI but no funding.

“We are pleased to add Excalibur Almaz to the group of CCDev2 companies and look forward to a productive partnership,” said Brent Jett, Commercial Crew Program deputy manager.

EAI’s concept for commercial crew transportation to the International Space Station is to use the company’s planned tourist space vehicle in concert with an intermediate stage, and to launch on a commercially available rocket to be determined in the near future.

As part of this agreement, EAI will conduct reviews of their systems requirements, compatibility with potential launch vehicles, spacecraft testing plans and overall design plan status. NASA will participate in these reviews by providing expert feedback based on 50 years of spaceflight experience. NASA and EAI kicked-off these activities in late October, and scheduled milestones will continue through May 2012.

A summary schedule showing all completed and planned CCDev2 milestones can be found at: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/commercial/.