What Actually Happened with Dream Chaser

I recently heard a very interesting talk from someone who saw the  Dream Chaser drop test at Edwards Air Force Base. The person described the landing, which went awry due to the failure of the left landing gear, as being looking similar to the crash in the opening credits for “The Six Million Dollar Man” television show.

This explains why the video that Sierra Nevada Corporation released ends abruptly just at touchdown. A crash like that is not exactly what you want everyone to see when you’re competing for billions of government dollars.

The footage for the TV show was taken from the crash of the M2-F2 lifting body research aircraft at Edwards in 1967. Test pilot Bruce Peterson battled what is known as a Dutch roll — lateral instability where the vehicle rocked back and forth — after being released from the B-52 mother ship. He came out of it off course and at low altitude. Distracted by a rescue helicopter hovering up ahead, he was unable to complete the landing flare and fully extend the gear before the M2-F2 hit the lake bed.

Peterson was badly injured in the accident and lost an eye due to a subsequent infection, but he later returned to flight status. Unlike so many of his fellow test pilots, he died at home decades later.

The vehicle was rebuilt with a center fin and renamed the M2-F3. It flew successfully many times, and it now hangs in a place of honor inside the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The TV show embellished the circumstances of the crash for dramatic purposes. Steve Austin lost two legs, and arm and an eye — all replaced with bionic parts. And just like so other high-profile celebrity Apollo moon walkers before him, Austin became a special agent for the OSI, the only secret government organization in the world that nobody’s ever heard of.

  • therealdmt

    Interesting! I had been imaging something more like The Fall Guy…

  • Stuart

    Was he deep undercover in The Fall Guy….!!!

  • Some Old Desert Rat

    Any indication of how Dream Chaser looks?

    Is she broken or just a little scuffed up?

  • Douglas Messier

    Mark Sirangelo said the vehicle was damaged and reparable after the flight. The cockpit was intact, the flight computers were all working, and any pilots aboard would have walked away.

    The condition of the shape is hard to verify given the lack of video and photographs. Sirangelo was saying they might not drop it again in the current configuration because they got all the data they needed from the flight. In other words, he was saying they met the milestone with one drop, so NASA should pay them. What NASA has said in response is not clear.

    There would be a clear financial benefit to Sierra Nevada to declare the milestone complete, receive the funds from NASA, and not have to go through the expense and trouble of repairing the vehicle and doing another drop test at this stage. The drop test was already many months behind the original schedule in the Space Act Agreement they signed with NASA. Meanwhile, Boeing and SpaceX are forging ahead with less complex vehicles.

  • Tonya

    They may have technically met the milestone requirement, but I think the NASA response might still be a Spock like raised eyebrow.

  • Hoplon

    Completion of the drop test milestone is contingent upon the actual data collected during the drop, not upon the landing. The landing gear to be used on the first flight ready version of Dream Chaser will be a completely different design than that used during the drop test.

  • Hoplon

    OSI: Office of Special Investigation, U.S. Air Force? Maybe not.

  • ٩๏̯͡๏۶

    I love this site.

  • mzungu

    Hahaha, true….. Screwing up on the simple stuff does not automatically equal to screwing up on the more complicated stuff.
    I can imagine that a LM manager once may have try to sell that the X-33 tank, is not exactly like the Venturestar tank.

  • therealdmt


  • Kirk

    OSI: Office of Scientific Intelligence, the name of the fictional agency in The Six Million Dollar Man, though the equivalent agency was called the Office of Strategic Operations (OSO) in original book Cyborg.