By Douglas Messier
Sierra Nevada Corporation will conduct additional drop tests of its Dream Chaser space shuttle at Edwards Air Force Base in the fall, Co-program Director John Curry said during the recent Space Tech Expo in Long Beach, Calif.
The approach and landing tests will be conducted using an upgraded engineering test vehicle that glided to a landing at Edwards last October. The upgrades will include the avionics, software, and guidance, navigation and control systems designed for use on the orbital Dream Chaser spacecraft, Curry said.
The schedule puts completion of Dream Chaser’s drop test milestone at least 17 months behind the original schedule, which called for free flights to be complete in April 2013. The tests could also be conducted after NASA has already decided on which of three competitors to continue funding in the next round of it Commercial Crew Program.
In the competition to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, Sierra Nevada is facing strong competition from Boeing and SpaceX. Faced with limited funding, NASA is expected to eliminate at least one competitor for the next round, which will see the winner or winners build and flight test vehicle(s).
NASA has said it hopes to award the next round of contracts in August. Each of the companies has submitted proposals for the next round that NASA officials are now reviewing.
Both Boeing and SpaceX have experienced some slippage in their schedules. And NASA amended the agreements with all three competitors, extending the current round from the April-May time frame to August while funding additional milestones for each company.
However, the slips in the Boeing and SpaceX schedules have been typically measured from one to several months, depending upon the individual milestones involved. Both companies say they are on track to complete all their milestones by August when the current funding round ends.
Sierra Nevada completed a single free flight of its Dream Chaser engineering model in Oct. 26 for which it received a $7 million milestone payment from NASA. The vehicle was dropped from a helicopter and successfully maneuvered to a touchdown on the runway at Edwards Air Force Base.
The vehicle crashed upon touchdown when one of its landing gears failed to properly deploy, causing the Dream Chaser to skid off the runway. Despite the failure, NASA declared the test successful in meeting the objectives of the milestone. The landing gear is different from what will be used on spaceflights.
The successful flight test was a milestone from the previous round of commercial crew funding. It was to be followed by at least one and as many as five additional drop tests “to reduce risk due to aerodynamic uncertainties in the subsonic approach and landing phase of flight and to mature the Dream Chaser aerodynamic database.” Completion of the milestone is worth $8 million.
Sierra Nevada Commercial Crew Milestones Status
Award Period: August 2012 – August 2014
Total Milestones: 13
Milestones Completed: 8
Milestones Pending: 5
Total Possible Award: $227.5 Million
Total Awarded to Date: $164.5 Million
Total Award Remaining: $63 Million
|1.||Program Implementation Plan Review. This is an initial meeting to describe the plan for implementing the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Program, to include management planning for achieving CDR; Design, Development, Testing, and Evaluation activities; risk management to include mitigation plans, and certification activities planned during the CCiCap Base Period.||August 2012||Complete||$30 Million|
|2.||Integrated System Baseline Review. The Integrated System Baseline Review (ISBR) demonstrates the maturity of the baseline CTS integrated vehicle and operations design of the Dream Chaser Space System (DCSS) consisting of Dream Chaser spacecraft, Atlas launch vehicle, Mission Systems, and Ground Systems supports proceeding with the detailed CTS design.||October 2012||Complete||$45 Million|
|3.||Integrated System Safety Analysis Review #1. The purpose of the Integrated System Safety Analysis Review #1 is to demonstrate that the systems safety analysis of the Dream Chaser Space System (DCSS) has been advanced to a preliminary maturity level, incorporating changes resulting from the Preliminary Design Review, The DCSS consists of the Dream Chaser spacecraft, launch vehicle, ground systems and mission systems.||January 2013||Complete||$20 Million|
|4A.||Engineering Test Article Flight Testing. At least one free flight of the Engineering Test Article to characterize the aerodynamics and controllability of the Dream Chaser Orbital Vehicle outer mold line configuration during the subsonic approach and landing phase.||April 2013||Complete||$7 Million|
|5.||SNC Investment Financing #1. This funding represents SNC’s commitment for significant investing financing. SNC to provide program co-investment of [REDACTED].||July 2013||Complete||$12.5 Million|
|6.||Integrated System Safety Analysis Review #2. The purpose of the Integrated System Safety Analysis Review #2 is to demonstrate that the systems safety analysis of the Dream Chaser Space System.||October 2013||Complete||$20 Million|
|7.||Certification Plan Review. The Certification Plan Review defines the top level strategy for certification of the DCSS that meets the objectives for the ISS Design Reference Mission described in CCT-DRM-1110 Rev Basic. SNC shall conduct a review of the verification and validation activities planned for the Dream Chaser Space System (Dream Chaser spacecraft, Atlas launch vehicle, Ground and Mission Systems).||November 2013||Complete||$25 Million|
|10A.||Critical Design Review Incremental Design Review #1. This is the first of a series of reviews that support the Dream Chaser Space System ICDR.||October 2013||Complete
|TOTAL TO DATE
(OUT OF $227.5 Million):
|4B.||Engineering Test Article Flight Testing. The purpose of these additional free flight test(s) is to reduce risk due to aerodynamic uncertainties in the subsonic approach and landing phase of flight and to mature the Dream Chaser aerodynamic database. A minimum of one and up to five additional Engineering Test Article free flight test(s) will be completed to characterize the aerodynamics and controllability of the Dream Chaser Orbital Vehicle outer mold line configuration during the subsonic approach and landing phase.||April 2013||Pending Fall 2014
|8.||Wind Tunnel Testing. The purpose of this testing is to reduce risk on both the DC vehicle and the DC/Atlas stack by maturing the DC and DCiAtias aerodynamic databases, providing improved fidelity in Reynolds number effects and control surface interactions, and will help determine pre-CDR required updates to the OML or control surface geometry if required.||February 2014||Pending 1Q 2014
|9.||Risk Reduction and TRL Advancement Testing. The purpose of these tests is to significantly mature all Dream Chaser systems to or beyond a CDR level.||May 2014||Pending 2Q 2014
|9A.||Main Propulsion and RCS Risk Reduction and TRL Advancement Testing. The purpose of these tests is to significantly mature the Dream Chaser Main Propulsion System and Reaction Control System to or beyond a CDR level. Risk reduction and Technology Readiness Level improvement tests will be completed for these systems.||May 2014||Pending 2Q 2014
|15A.||Reaction Control System Testing — Incremental Test No. 1. The purpose of the test on this pre-qualification unit is to support eventual qualification/certification by testing the thruster in flight-like environments.||July 2014||Pending 3Q 2014