Update on Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser

Dream Chaser berthed at space station. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

The slide below is from a recent NASA update on the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Although Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser was eliminated from the final round of the program nearly three years ago, the company has continued to develop the vehicle for both crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station. NASA has awarded a contract for cargo flights under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 program.

A full-scale engineering article is set to conduct an approach and landing test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight and Research Center in California this fall. The flight is one of the unfinished milestones from Sierra Nevada’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities contract.

The test will come about four years the last Dream Chaser approach and landing test in October 2013. The glide portion of the flight went as planned, but a failure of part of the landing gear resulted in a crash on the runway.

The company is continuing to develop Dream Chaser for crew flights under an unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA. A total of eight milestones are included under the agreement, which has been extended to August 2022.

Under an unfunded SAA, each side pays covers its own costs for any work performed.

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  • windbourne

    Got to love NASA and SNC.
    Both are trying to make sure that we have 3 vehicles for launching with so that we never again are denied space.
    Now, NASA needs to push for adding 2 habitats to ISS.
    We really need to make sure that there is enough business initially to keep these companies going.
    As those companies develop to the moon and picking up other govs and businesses than NASA/American gov can quit picking up the tab.

  • Paul451

    I’ve made a point previously that the DS Gateway makes a perfect COTS-like program. Multiple vendors developing hardware in parallel, through a stepping-stone program.

    Say, step 1, deliver a module to ISS that meets certain minimal specs. Step 2, demonstrate a free-flying crewable single-module station in LEO. Step 3, supply a “gateway” to a suitable lunar orbit and support NASA’s use of it.

    That way, you supplement the ISS in the short term, develop commercial LEO stations in the medium term, and lower the cost of BEO stations in the longer term, without committing to a single top-down NASA-run project like SLS/Orion (and what we will inevitably get with DSG.) Additionally, if the LEO demonstrators are suitable, they might allow NASA to splash the costly ISS earlier than planned, distribute work between the various lower-cost commercial vendors, and free up funding for more research.

    And there’s nothing about this that threatens the Big Rocket beloved of Congress (other than conceptually by supporting the COTS model), there shouldn’t be as much resistance. NASA managers can argue that lowering the cost of DSG prevents it from diverting funding from SLS/Orion.

  • windbourne

    What you propose is exactly what I would like to see. In fact, I believe that in step 1, the habitats should be stripped of everything except maybe wiring, plumbing, and HVAC. Then the company has to build it up in space. The reason is that if it can not be built in space, then it likely can not be fixed or changed easily.
    Also, this gives each company time to PROVE to NASA and world that they are solid.