Sierra Nevada Corporation Completes Critical Wind Tunnel Tests

The scale model of the Dream Chaser is readied for wind tunnel testing at high speeds that simulate the conditions it will encounter during its flight through the atmosphere returning from space. (Credit:  NASA/David C. Bowen)
The scale model of the Dream Chaser is readied for wind tunnel testing at high speeds that simulate the conditions it will encounter during its flight through the atmosphere returning from space. (Credit: NASA/David C. Bowen)

SPARKS, Nev., May 19, 2014 – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces the successful completion of the latest milestone in its NASA Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement. NASA awarded SNC full value of $20 million for the passage of CCiCap Milestone 8, Wind Tunnel Testing. To date, SNC has received over 80 percent of the total award value under the CCiCap agreement and is on track to complete the program later this year.

The purpose of Milestone 8 was to continue to advance the overall design of the Dream Chaser® orbital spacecraft by analyzing the forces and flight dynamic characteristics that the vehicle will experience during orbital ascent and re-entry. The completion of this milestone significantly advances the path to orbital flight of the Dream Chaser spacecraft and the Dream Chaser Atlas V integrated launch system. Several Dream Chaser scale model spacecraft were subjected to multiple different wind tunnel tests in various configurations, including the integrated Dream Chaser attached to the United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle. In addition to the baseline milestone criteria, SNC fully self-funded an additional wind tunnel test that will accelerate the Dream Chaser development schedule and path to completion of the Critical Design Review.

“The aerodynamic data collected during these tests has further proven and validated Dream Chaser’s integrated spacecraft and launch vehicle system design. It also has shown that Dream Chaser expected performance is greater than initially predicted,” said Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems. “Our program continues to fully complete each of our CCiCap agreement milestones assisted through our strong collaboration efforts with our integrated ‘Dream Team’ of industry, university and government strategic partners. We are on schedule to launch our first orbital flight in November of 2016, which will mark the beginning of the restoration of U.S. crew capability to low-Earth orbit.”

The wind tunnel tests for this milestone were completed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, CALSPAN Transonic Wind Tunnel in New York, and at NASA’s Langley Research Center Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel in Hampton, Virginia. SNC has a long standing relationship with Langley dating to 2004, the beginning of its development for the Dream Chaser, a derivative of NASA’s HL-20 lifting body vehicle. Langley also houses the full motion-based flight simulator, which operates using Dream Chaser flight software and has been used to train future Dream Chaser pilots and NASA astronauts. In addition to these locations, previous wind tunnel testing also occurred at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and at Texas A&M University.

SNC is working with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to develop a safe, innovative, modern, flexible and highly-capable crew transportation system for the 21st Century. Dream Chaser provides the only reusable, human-rated lifting-body spacecraft with a commercial runway landing capability, anywhere in the world, and is on the forefront of the commercial human spaceflight industry, offering safe, reliable and cost-effective crew and critical cargo transportation to low-Earth orbit. Dream Chaser is a multi-mission capable spacecraft that has the ability to work as an independent science platform, or as a logistics vehicle to retrieve, repair, replace, assemble or deploy items in space.

Sierra Nevada Commercial Crew Milestones Status
Award Period: August 2012 – August 2014
Total Milestones: 13
Milestones Completed: 9
Milestones Pending: 4
Total Possible Award: $227.5 Million
Total Awarded to Date: $184.5 Million

Total Award Remaining: $43 Million

No.DescriptionOriginal DateStatusAmount
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 2012Complete$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 2012Complete$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 2013Complete$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 2013Complete$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 2013Complete$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 2013Complete$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 2013Complete$25 Million
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 2014Complete
$20 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 2013Complete
$5 Million
TOTAL TO DATE
(OUT OF $227.5 Million):
$184.5
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 2013Pending 3Q 2014
$8 Million
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 2014Pending 2Q 2014
$17 Million
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 2014Pending 2Q 2014
$8
Million
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 2014Pending 3Q 2014
$10 Million
TOTAL:$227.5 Million