ISPCS Session: Crew Transportation Systems

Illustration of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft arriving at the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

ISPCS Session:
Crew Transportation Systems: The Game Changer in Human Spaceflight

Brett Alexander – President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
Mark Sirangelo – Corporate Vice President and Chairman, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Chairman, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
Keith Reiley – Program Manager, Commercial Crew Development, The Boeing Company
Ken Bowersox – Vice President of Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance, SpaceX
Kenneth Reightler – Vice President, NASA Program Integration, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company
Robert Bigelow – Owner and Founder, Bigelow Aerospace


Sierra Nevada Reaches Major Engine Milestone for Dream Chaser


SNC fires hybrid rocket motor and begins production on Dream Chaser Vehicle

The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems Group announces the successful completion of two critical milestones for NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Program. On September 21, 2010, SNC completed three successful test firings of a single hybrid rocket motor in one day.  SNC’s newly opened rocket test facility in San Diego County, California, hosted NASA personnel for a rocket motor manufacturing review as well as the motor firings, including one firing under vacuum ignition conditions.  The tests, which simulated a complete nominal mission profile, demonstrated the multiple restart capability of SNC’s proprietary hybrid rocket motor.  This same hybrid rocket will be used as the main propulsion system on the Dream Chaser during the orbital operations.

[Editor’s Note: Sierra Nevada is the main contractor for Scaled Composites’ RocketMotorTwo, which will power SpaceShipTwo on suborbital flights. Both vehicles are using the same propulsion system. This probably explains why Scaled Composite and Virgin Galactic officials are predicting powered test flights of SpaceShipTwo in 2011.]


ISPCS Panel: Bigelow, Paragon, Sierra Nevada and Dynetics

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser - a seven-person space shuttle designed for orbital flight.


“Establishing the Commercial Space Market: Matching Business Strategy with Funding Sources”

Lee Rand — Managing Partner, Sun Mountain Capital
Grant Anderson — VP of Engineering, Paragon Space Development Corporation
Mark Sirangelo — Corporate VP and Chairman, Sierra Nevada Corporation; Chairman, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
Tim Pickens — Commercial Space Advisor; Chief Propulsion Engineer, Dynetics
Robert Bigelow — Owner and Founder, Bigelow Aerospace


RocketMotorTwo Fired for Fifth Time

Sierra Nevada Corporation successfully test fired the RocketMotorTwo engine for the fifth time last week. The hot-firing was the first such test in over four months. Previous firings were done one:

April 20, 2009
May 06, 2009
May 20, 2009
March 30, 2010

RocketEngineTwo Test Log

(Courtesy of Scaled Composites)

Fire: 05
Date: 11 August 10


Perform fifth full scale flight design RM2 hot-fire
Continue all systems evaluation
Continue fuel formulation evaluation
Continue nozzle evaluation
Continue motor structural evaluation
Continue Valve/Injector performance evaluation


All objectives completed. Performed successful increased duration hot-fire, including igniter performance, oxidizer flow and pressurization systems, data acquisition system measurements, structural evaluation, nozzle ablation, and fuel regression rate data collection. Determined stability levels.

Sirangelo: Fund Dream Chaser for Orbital Flights, Let Orion Fly to the Moon

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser - a seven-person space shuttle designed for orbital flight.

The Denver Business Journal has an interview with Mark Sirangelo, head of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s space division and chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. He argues that NASA should fund Orion for deep space exploration only while robustly funding alternatives like the Dream Chaser vehicle that his company is developing for orbital flights.


Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser Shuttle Based on Abandoned NASA Project

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser - a seven-person space shuttle designed for orbital flight.

Sierra Nevada Building On NASA Design
Aviation Week

The Colorado-based company is modeling Dream Chaser on the HL-20 lifting-body vehicle that NASA started as a potential International Space Station (ISS) crew rescue vehicle, which would have been able to transport a full station crew fleeing an emergency to a horizontal landing on runways anywhere in the world.


NASA’s $50 Million Commercial Crew Investment to Fund Different Approaches

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser - a seven-person space shuttle designed for orbital flight.
Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser - a space shuttle designed for orbital flight and ISS servicing.

The $50 million in contract awards that NASA announced earlier this month will fund a number of approaches to commercial human spaceflight, including a new capsule and a small space shuttle. The space agency also spread out awards between newer, entrepreneurial companies and established aerospace giants.


NASA Awards $50 Million to 5 Companies for Commercial Crew Work


NASA has awarded $50 million through funded agreements to further the commercial sector’s capability to support transport of crew to and from low Earth orbit. This step is the first taken by NASA consistent with the president’s direction to foster commercial human spaceflight capabilities.


SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Push Commercial Alternatives to Orbit


The Houston Chronicle’s Eric Berger has an interesting Q&A with Mark Sirangelo, executive vice president of Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Larry Williams, vice president of strategic relations for SpaceX.

Berger: From the commercial perspective, how soon, and for how much money, could we have a low-Earth-orbit crew transport vehicle?

Sirangelo: Both of our companies are fairly well along in our programs to deliver crews to space. Our program uses a NASA-derived vehicle that has been in development by NASA for 10 years. We took it over four years ago, and are proposing to launch it on an existing launch system that has flown many hundreds of times. Our program is called Dream Chaser. We’re not looking to propose something that’s only on paper and hasn’t been discussed, it’s really about marrying two systems that have had significant amount of research into them. We think it can happen within a few years, not within a decade.

Read the full interview.

eSpace Adds Board Members, Government Liaison

eSpace Press Release

eSpace: The Center for Space Entrepreneurship, a non-profit business incubator for aerospace companies, today announced that it has added new members to its board of directors and a new member to its team of government liaisons.

Already lauded for workforce development programs that encourage high school and college students to enter the aerospace industry, eSpace now fortifies its position as mentor with high-level, connected advisors and guides who can help space entrepreneurs succeed in the highly-regulated, tight-knit aerospace industry during a recessionary economy.