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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Midland International Air & Space Port Receives Dream Chaser® Spacecraft Compatible Landing Site Designation

Dream Chaser spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)
Dream Chaser spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev. (Nov. 3, 2016) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and the Midland Development Corporation (MDC) today announce that Midland International Air & Space Port is now considered a compatible landing site for SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft. Midland International Air & Space Port, located in Midland, Texas, has successfully completed the compatibility portion of the Dream Chaser Landing Site Designation process, which is the first step toward becoming an approved landing site for Dream Chaser spacecraft landings.
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NASA’s Commercial Crew Program By the Numbers

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With the recent news that commercial crew flights to the International Space Station will likely slip to the end of 2018, I thought it would be a good time to review what NASA has spend on the program since it began in 2010. And, since NASA has separated cargo and crew, we will also look at the space agency’s commercial cargo programs.

The table below shows that NASA has given out nearly $8.4 billion in contracts to Commercial Crew Program partners over the past six years. These figures do not include NASA’s overhead.

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Program Updates from ISPCS

The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

NASA and various commercial companies gave updates on their programs during the International Symposium on Commercial and Personal Spaceflight this week in Las Cruces, NM.

What follows are summaries that include:

  • suborbital programs (Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin)
  • commercial cargo (SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corporation)
  • commercial crew (NASA, Boeing, ULA).

The summaries are based on Twitter posts from attendees. A big thanks to Thanks to Tanya Harrison (‏@tanyaofmars), Frank Slazer ‏(@FSlazer), Jeff Foust (‏@jeff_foust), Michael Simpson ‏(@SpaceSharer), and Melissa Sampson (‏@DrSampson) for the coverage.

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Sierra Nevada, UN Announced Dedicated Dream Chaser Mission

Dream Chaser spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)
Dream Chaser spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev., September 27, 2016 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and have announced details of the first-ever United Nations space mission at the International Astronautical Congress today in Guadalajara, Mexico. The dedicated Dream Chaser® Mission is targeted at providing developing countries the opportunity to develop and fly microgravity payloads for an extended duration in orbit; however, all United Nations Member States will be able to propose payloads for the mission.

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SNC, Solar Junction Launch New Cost-Saving Solar Array Technology

SNC’s low-cost solar array Surface Mount Technology. (Credit: SNC)
SNC’s low-cost solar array Surface Mount Technology. (Credit: SNC)

SPARKS, Nev., September 20, 2016 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Solar Junction Corporation (Solar Junction) are launching a revolutionary new technology that will increase the efficiency of spacecraft solar array production and operation and lower the overall cost, providing a direct savings to customers. These advanced solar arrays are manufactured utilizing a patent-pending Surface Mount Technology (SMT) assembly method. This method allows each cell to be installed faster, closer together and more accurately than ever before. This advancement significantly increases the amount of power generated per area, while decreasing cost and delivery time. SNC has teamed with Solar Junction, an innovative semiconductor technology company based in San Jose, California, to develop this industry-first spacecraft solar array technology. Solar Junction’s high-efficiency, multi-junction Surface Mount Cell with Coverglass (SMCC) enables automated, high-speed pick-and-place assembly of SNC-designed and manufactured solar arrays.

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SpaceX, NASA Misled Public About First Commercial Resupply Flight

Falcon 9 launches on its first commercial resupply mission.
Falcon 9 launches on its first commercial resupply mission.

As SpaceX prepared to launch its first commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station in October 2012, there was a rather curious aspect about the mission. While the Dragon spacecraft was advertised as being able to carry 3,310 kg of cargo, the ship was only loaded with 450 kg of cargo — less than 14 percent of maximum capacity.

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ASAP Update on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

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The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) held a meeting on July 21, 2016 at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, DC. Below is a summary of the status of the  Commercial Crew program and the Boeing and SpaceX vehicles, including top programmatic risks.

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Sierra Nevada Teams with ORBITEC, Aerojet Rocketdyne on NextSTEP-2 Habitat Work

Concept image of Sierra Nevada Corporation's habitation prototype, based on its Dream Chaser cargo module. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)
Concept image of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s habitation prototype, based on its Dream Chaser cargo module. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev. (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has been selected to develop a deep space, long-duration, human habitat design and prototype for NASA. The partnership, under NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) Broad Agency Announcement, Appendix A, will allow SNC and its partners to use their experience to design a complete habitat system architecture and build a full-scale prototype for testing and evaluation.

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A Closer Look at NextSTEP-2 Deep Space Habitat Concepts

Concept image of Sierra Nevada Corporation's habitation prototype, based on its Dream Chaser cargo module. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)
Concept image of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s habitation prototype, based on its Dream Chaser cargo module. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Through exploration, NASA is broadening horizons, enhancing knowledge, and improving our way of life. Our efforts to explore and discover the universe are increasing in both scope and duration. The Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket in the world, soon will launch the Orion spacecraft and its crew deeper into space than ever before. Expanding humanity’s presence farther into the solar system also requires advancements in the development of habitats and the systems to keep astronauts safe as they live and work in deep space for long periods of time.

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NASA Awards 6 NextSTEP-2 Contracts for Deep Space Habitats

Orion and the NextSTEP habitat in the cis-lunar proving ground – the next step from low Earth orbit on the way to Mars. (Credit; Lockheed Martin)
Orion and the NextSTEP habitat in the cis-lunar proving ground – the next step from low Earth orbit on the way to Mars. (Credit; Lockheed Martin)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected six U.S. companies to help advance the Journey to Mars by developing ground prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats.

Through the public-private partnerships enabled by the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) Broad Agency Announcement, Appendix A, NASA and industry partners will expand commercial development of space in low-Earth orbit while also improving deep space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human spaceflight missions.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne to Supply Electrical Power System for Dream Chaser

Dream Chaser test vehicle prepares to ship. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)
Dream Chaser test vehicle prepares to ship. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 02, 2016 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), has been awarded a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to supply the electrical power system for the Dream Chaser, a commercial spacecraft that will carry cargo to and from the International Space Station. The system will regulate power generated from the solar arrays and distribute it to the reusable spacecraft’s avionics, thermal and propulsion systems, as well as payloads that require electrical power.

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NASA Advisory Council Receives Updates on NASA Programs

NASA LOGOThe NASA Advisory Council has been meeting in Cleveland this week, receiving program updates from top agency officials. Below is a summary of the first two days based on Tweets by Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) and Marcia Smith (@SpcPlcyOnline). There are updates below on:

  • Commercial crew
  • Commercial cargo
  • International Space Station
  • SLS/Orion
  • NextSTEP
  • Deep-space human mission planning
  • SpaceX’s Red Dragon
  • Mars 2020
  • Blue Origin

Enjoy!
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Sierra Nevada Completes Second Dream Chaser Milestone

Dream Chaser spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)
Dream Chaser spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev., June 25, 2016 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has passed the second Integration Certification Milestone under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. NASA assessed and fully approved SNC’s detailed approach for getting the Dream Chaser Cargo System to the International Space Station (ISS).

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