Cool Video: Watch the Dream Chaser Get Assembled for Tests

Video Caption: This time-lapse video shows Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) team attaching the wings and tail of the company’s Dream Chaser flight vehicle May 18. The crew prepared the vehicle for ground and free-flight tests, which are scheduled throughout 2013. SNC is one of only three companies working with NASA to develop space transportation systems capable of flying astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station later this decade. The work completed at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center will demonstrate the winged vehicle’s ability to safely land an astronaut crew on a runway.

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Dream Chaser Undergoes Taxi Tests at Dryden

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser flight vehicle undergoes taxi tow testing on May 31 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California. (Credit: NASA)
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser flight vehicle undergoes taxi tow testing on May 31 at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California. (Credit: NASA)

NASA PR: Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is putting its Dream Chaser flight vehicle through a series of ground tests at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California in preparation for upcoming captive-carry and free-flight tests.

During two tow tests, a pickup truck pulled the Dream Chaser flight vehicle on Dryden’s concrete runways to validate the performance of the spacecraft’s nose skid, brakes, tires and other systems. The company has performed the tests at 10 and 20 mph, and is working toward 40 and 60 mph tests later this month. Range and taxi tow tests are standard for winged vehicles that touch down on a runway to prove the overall spacecraft handling post-landing.

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Dream Chaser Arrives in California for Testing

SNC's Dream Chaser test flight craft is hauled across the bed of Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on May 15. (Credit: NASA/Tom Tschida)
SNC’s Dream Chaser test flight craft is hauled across the bed of Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center on May 15. (Credit: NASA/Tom Tschida)

By Candrea Thomas
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Systems Dream Chaser flight vehicle arrived at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., Wednesday to begin tests of its flight and runway landing systems.

The tests are part of pre-negotiated, paid-for-performance milestones with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), which is facilitating U.S.-led companies’ development of spacecraft and rockets that can launch from American soil. The overall goal of CCP is to achieve safe, reliable and cost-effective U.S. human access to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit.
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Dream Chaser Ready to be Shipped to NASA Dryden

Dream Chaser flight vehicle prepares for shipment to NASA Dryden.(Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)
Dream Chaser flight vehicle prepares for
shipment to NASA Dryden.(Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Sparks, NV, May 13, 2013 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Systems has completed assembly and testing of the Dream Chaser® spacecraft in preparation for shipping the flight vehicle from SNC’s Space Systems headquarters in Louisville, Colo., to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Upon arrival at NASA Dryden, the Dream Chaser will continue a series of tests, including runway tow, ground resonance, and a captive carry flight. These tests will be completed before the Dream Chaser flight vehicle’s first autonomous free flight Approach and Landing Test (ALT).

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Flight Opportunities Program Exec Interns at Mojave Air and Space Port

john-w-kelly
John W. Kelly

John W. Kelly, program manager for NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, began a one-year executive internship at the Mojave Air and Space Port last week.

Kelly will be focusing on access to space initiatives as well as the research potential of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Kelly also will help to build a closer working relationship between the spaceport and the nearby NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, where he is employed.

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) solicited proposals from state and local governments, eligible university and other public entities to develop six UAS research and test sites around the country.

Mojave spaceport officials are considering submitting a proposal for designation as an UAS research and test site. So, Kelly’s expertise would be valuable if the spaceport goes forward with a proposal.

Designation as one of the six UAS sites would bring new companies and many new jobs to the spaceport, which is located in California’s High Desert.

Dream Chaser Drop Tests Due By End of March

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: Sierra Nevada)

Sierra Nevada Corporation is planning drop tests of its Dream Chaser shuttle at Edwards Air Force base no later than the end of March, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Mark Sirangelo tells NASASpaceflight.com. The Colorado company will conduct the test in cooperation with NASA Dryden Flight Research Center.

The results of the test were fed into the planning for the final CCDev-2 (Commercial Crew Development) objective of a high-altitude free flight, or “drop-test”, involving the vehicle riding with a carrier airplane – depicted as White Knight 2 in documentation, but with a number of carrier options – before being released for a landing attempt at Dryden at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

My sources tell me that WhiteKnightTwo will not be used to drop Dream Chaser. Virgin Galactic nixed the idea, reportedly over concerns that use of the vehicle will delay flight testing of SpaceShipTwo. They also had concerns about potential damage to the carrier aircraft.

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Congressmen Seek to Rename NASA Dryden After Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong with the X-15 on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

November 29, 2012 – Washington D.C. (Press Release) – Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon and Congressman Kevin McCarthy today announced legislation to redesignate the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center and the Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range. Joining Congressman McCarthy in introducing this legislation are Congressman Buck McKeon, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Congressman Ken Calvert, Congressman Lamar Smith, Congressman Steven Palazzo, and Congressman Adam Schiff.

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Mojave Spaceport Looks for NASA, Student Interns

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

NASA Dryden is looking to place one of its employees at the Mojave Air and Space Port for six to 12 months to learn how the private sector space community operates.

The placement would be made under a NASA program that details promising employees at companies and other organizations to give them broader business and management expertise, said Mojave spaceport CEO Stu Witt. The space agency would cover the salary of the employee while he or she is working on assignment in Mojave.

“We interpret that as an enormous vote of confidence that we’re doing something right,” Witt told the East Kern Airport District (EKAD) Board of Directors on Tuesday.

Witt said he has had several discussions about the placement with officials at the NASA field center, which located at nearby Edwards Air Force Base. He said he hoped to have an agreement to present to the EKAD board at its next meeting.

In a related development, the Mojave spaceport is looking to recruit some summer student interns. Karina Drees, the spaceport’s director of business development, will be attending the SpaceVision 2012 conference in Buffalo this week. The three-day event is being sponsored by Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS).

The spaceport is spending $2,000 as a sponsor of the conference. Drees told the EKAD board that the sponsorship will give her access to students attending the event.

Xombie Makes Successful Flight with GENIE Flight Control System

Masten Space Systems' Xombie rocket with Draper Laboratory's GENIE flight control system rests on its launch pad at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Draper Lab)

MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — The first successful free flight of a new rocket-powered vertical landing demonstrator occurred recently at Mojave Air and Space Port, Mojave, Calif. The flight used a new flight control system concept that will enable future demonstrations of landing technologies needed for exploration of planets and moons, as well as near-Earth objects, like asteroids. NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program sponsored the flight and control system test.

Masten Space Systems’ Xombie suborbital rocket lifted off the launch pad Feb. 2 while being controlled by Draper Laboratory’s Guidance Embedded Navigator Integration Environment (GENIE) system. The rocket rose 164 feet, moved laterally 164 feet, and then landed on another pad after a 67-second flight. The flight represents the first step in developing a test bed capability that will allow for landing demonstrations that start at much higher altitudes-several miles above the ground.

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Awesom Video: Masten Xombie Flight Using GENIE System

Video Caption: Using the GENIE (Guidance Embedded Navigator Integration Environment) System, Draper Laboratory raised Masten Space Systems’ Xombie suborbital rocket 50 meters to a stable hover, sent it laterally down range 50 meters, and then had it land safely during a controlled 50 meter descent. The testing, which exercised the autonomous guidance, navigation, and control technology needed to fly planetary landing trajectories, was conducted at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

The GENIE precision landing GN&C system was developed jointly between Draper and NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) under the Autonomous Landing Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) effort, and is being flown under contract with NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, which is managed by NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.

NASA Pulls X-34 Hypersonic Test Vehicles Out of Storage

Absent their vertical tails, the two X-34 aircraft were convoyed from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center to the north gate of Edwards Air Force Base via Rosamond Boulevard Tuesday morning, and then overnight on Highway 58 to the Mojave Air and Spaceport Wednesday. (Credit: NASA Dryden/Tony Landis)

NASA PROGRAM UPDATE

The two X-34 hypersonic research aircraft developed by Orbital Sciences Corp. to serve as flight demonstrators for a NASA rocket engine technology development program in the mid-1990s were transported overland via truck from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base to the Mojave Air and Spaceport Nov. 16-17. The two technology demonstrators will be stored temporarily at a hangar operated by the National Test Pilot School while undergoing inspections by Orbital Sciences personnel to determine if they are viable for flight.

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Space Elevator Games Postponed 3 Weeks to Early August

spaceelevator

Just received a note from Alan Brown of NASA Dryden concerning postponement of the Space Elevator Games originally scheduled for July 14:

Due to some technical issues that came up during the “dry run” practice sessions last week, the event has been postponed for about three weeks, or about the first week in August.

No details are available on what technical problems came up. The games are part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges and are co-sponsored by the Spaceward Foundation.