Dream Chaser Arrives at Edwards for Drop Tests

Editor’s Note: Dream Chaser was last at Edwards in October 2013 for its first and only drop test. It was released from a helicopter and glided to a runway landing. However, it crashed after part of its landing gear failed to deploy. Video of the accident has never been released.

At the time, Sierra Nevada was testing a crew version of the Dream Chaser under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The vehicle was dropped from the program the following year. However, NASA has given the company a contract to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) using a cargo variant of the spacecraft.

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  • therealdmt

    Don’t forget to drop the gear this time!

  • Paul_Scutts

    Hope all goes well with the drop test.

  • ReSpaceAge

    Why would I want to fly my stuff in this when I could fly my stuff in a Dragon 2 that can land safely in water, on land, softly ANYWHERE. Having to land on a runway is just old fashion, and dangerous.

  • windbourne

    Lower Gs on landing. Smoother return. Plenty of runways around . Ability to land on land.

    Down the road, dragon 2 will also be capable of landing anywhere, including land.

  • ReSpaceAge

    yeah

    SpaceX should launch Trump from the Cape then let him visit ISS, then land him on top of Trump Tower in New York. Show the world the progress we have made.

    Enough of NASA/Orion and their chicken S#$% water landings.

  • John_The_Duke_Wayne

    Why is this called a drop test? Wouldn’t it be better PR to call it a terminal glide test to imply a safer and more controllable design?

    Anyways best of luck to the team hope to see three gears down this time

  • Terry Rawnsley

    A long ways down the road (at least 16 – 20 months and getting longer every day.) Your arguments in support of DC are very valid -BTW.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    I certainly agree with launching the entire Trump family into space.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    They don’t dare screw this one up.

  • windbourne

    well, we will see about how long Dragon 2 really takes.
    I think that this will be done sooner than most will realize.
    Still, the real issue is the launch vehicle.
    Block 5? With a new Helium tank? Hopefully.
    And we have seen that issues CAN and DO happen between blocks.

  • patb2009
  • patb2009

    Reasons to like Horizontal landing. High L/D gives a lot of cross range.
    High Cross range means you can take a lot of landing passes.
    Landing at a runway means not needing a boat to pick you up.
    Ocean tends to be hard on the hardware. Lots of refurbishment. SpaceX tried doing splashing in the ocean and being picked up. They found it easier to land.

    Landing is hard, wings are hard but it has payoff

  • Bill Douglass

    If I were an astronaut I would sure like to fly back facing forward with some control over what was happening rather than coming in backward with my eyes shut like a kid in a car seat!

  • Bill Douglass

    We have all been waiting for this next drop/glide/landing test. It is really weird that not even a single photo has ever leaked out of the first one.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    What about launch – should crew manually gimbal the engines?. Dragon fires control thrusters during entry – are you suggesting this would be better done by crew?.

    “…with some control over what was happening”
    At fifteen thousands miles per hour bathed in plasma – you’d rather dump the sensors and computers and put apes in charge would you?.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Not sure I like the use of the word “terminal” either – though it was apt for the previous test.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    You mean of course, lower Gs on re-entry.

    Smoother return?, how so?, other than the lower Gs.

    “Ability to land on land.”
    Landing in salt water (initially at least) is not so good for reuse, but otherwise, in the grand scheme of the expense and frequency of missions, the ability to land on land is really only a minor convenience. Obviously, rapid reusability is needed to bring down costs so that human space flight can become frequent – not so convinced DC is the best route toward such low cost ubiquity.

    “Plenty of runways around”
    So you’re saying that if there is an error that puts the target runway out of reach – then diverting the glide to another suitable runway would be straight forward?.
    You could of framed it as “ability to land on runways”, or, necessity of landing on runway, or, to ensure a safe land it is necessary to reach the target runway.

    Did you forget:
    Higher risk re-entry compared to neutral shape of a capsule design.
    In emergency, capsules can touchdown more or less anywhere – DC would not be quite so comforting for off-nominal touchdowns.
    More difficult/risky launch abort escape.
    More massive, so potentially less payload to orbit, and therefore more expensive payload/seats.
    More expensive to manufacture – basically more expensive all round.

    Deluding oneself you’re in an aeroplane rather than a spacecraft doesn’t automatically make it all sunshine and roses.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “High Cross range means you can take a lot of landing passes.”
    So you’re gliding down at 200mph and you decide (that is to say, the computer decides, because it would be madness to put apes in charge) that the runway will be missed, so you circle the airfield for awhile and try again?. Really?

    The minor short-term inconvenience of landing on water is hardly significant given that each seat still costs tens of millions of dollars. Yes, the long term aim of bringing seat prices into the thousands rather than millions, will require landing at the launch site. However, that is not an argument that uniquely support horizontal landing. Given that the launch system is likely to be landing vertically, then why employ a different technological approach to landing passenger vehicles.

  • ReSpaceAge

    Strongly agree!

    But Dream chaser looks so cool!

    lol

  • windbourne

    The other negative that you are missing is that DC and variants is really only viable on thick atmospheres such as earth and Venus, while capsule can land anywhere.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    not as cool as BFS ….or Skylon come to that

  • ReSpaceAge

    Many times I suggested that a lifting body be used to recover the second stage AND the cargo section. ITS/BFS is the first time I have seen a design like that.

    Wish DC was a 2nd stage recovery ship too.

  • Bill Douglass

    Hey Michael – Am sure they could do both the launch and reentry jobs but am talking about the landing phase where the Shuttle drivers had full control. We know they can automate the whole works – Russia’s Buran and our X-37B.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    I still l would like to see the video of the first glide test crash of D.C. S.N. has a contract now and nothing to loose. What are they afraid of? It’s no wonder that they didn’t get a contract for crew D.C. They want to hide information from the public. Go SpaceX, go Boeing!!!

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Lifting bodies are not “lifting” as such during re-entry, they are presenting a larger surface area ratio and so slow down more gradually – the lifting is in the descent and landing phase. BFS is just spreading the heat load over a larger area (a change of thinking from their early 2nd stage recovery approach). The shape is to do with presenting the heatshield to the atmosphere, not as a semi-lifting body. Seems to me, combining 2nd stage and spacecraft to enable 2nd stage recovery, further pushes the needle toward vertical landing. Launch requires structural rigidity along the “vertical” axis, whereas landing horizontally requires structural strength perpendicular to that. So, landing horizontally adds both “wing” and structural mass.

  • Thomas Boomer

    When?

  • Thomas Boomer

    Well I am all for launching him but bringing him back is another story.

  • Thomas Boomer

    Weather is an issue on re-entry for capsules and winged craft. Winged craft require a runway, but allow for a much more pleasant landing. On the other hand, Dragon 2 could conceivably land anywhere, and it has a powered landing which will probably be relatively smooth. Dragon 2 will be significantly smoother than the Soyuz capsule landings. The great thing is we can have them both. It does not have to be one or the other.