A recent, NASA-awarded cargo pact worth billions means smoother sailing for the development of Dream Chaser, a new space shuttle built by Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC), based in Louisville, CO.
The unique spacecraft has had a long and arduous journey from its Soviet-era beginnings to its thrust into today’s escalating private industry space race.
The Phase 2 commercial Resupply Services (CRS2) is contracted for at least six Dream Chaser missions to the International Space Station. The announcement comes roughly two years after SNC lost a bid to taxi astronauts to the station against competitors, Boeing and SpaceX.
But SNCs resolve did not wane and the company survived by transforming their vehicle to successfully compete for cargo missions to the ISS. This innovative spirit puts the future of SNC on an exciting trajectory.
Mark Sirangelo, Vice President of SNC, says the company has addressed the concerns NASA had voiced when it decided against awarding the previous contract to SNC. He also remarked that the government “gets a terrific vehicle to add to its fleet.”
The capabilities of the newly designed Dream Chaser Cargo System met the upper end of the technical requirements for a cargo mission. Including the ability to carry up to 5,550 kilograms, roughly the size of one well fed African bush elephant. This allows for more space inside pressurized chambers for critical science experiments and external space to carry large components to be installed on the body of the ISS.
The lifting body vehicle will be launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket and will have the ability to return – along with cargo – by landing at any available airport. SNCs Dream Chaser is made of non-toxic materials meaning it can touch down on commercial runways and be accessed immediately.
The chance to showcase a reusable spacecraft on government funded missions bodes well for a potential pivot to commercial use. SNC is at the leading edge of private space companies that one day might cater to a more diverse base of consumers like universities, medical companies and individuals.
To learn more about Dream Chaser’s history and development, we spoke to John Roth, Vice President of Business Development for SNC’s Space Systems.
Can you give us a little history on how the Dream Chaser was inspired by a space shuttle built by the Soviet Union?
The history stems from the BOR-4, a subscale test version of a manned spaceplane that the Soviets experimented with (some orbital launches and sub-orbital launches) back in the 1980s. The way that it has a heritage to the Dream Chaser—it’s not a direct heritage, but the BOR-4 had been captured by some intelligence originally from an Australian surveillance aircraft that caught a Russian frigate pulling a BOR-4 out of the water after one of its flights.
They didn’t know what the BOR-4 was. It looked like some sort of space vehicle. They sent the information to the United States to see if the US had any intel on this vehicle and that made its way to NASA.
NASA didn’t have any intel on the vehicle but they thought it was a very interesting design and that prompted some of the early design work they did in lifting bodies that eventually led to the development of NASA’s own spaceplane concept, the HL-20. So the NASA HL-20, if you look at it, looks very looks very similar to the BOR-4. There’s sort of a direct link in that they have some intelligence on the BOR-4 and that led to the development of the HL-20 at NASA.
We took over the technical details, information and drawings etc. of the HL-20 from NASA and migrated that into the Dream Chaser.
Will SNC compete for the next round of commercial crew contracts that NASA is expected to award in 2020?
That is certainly on our radar scope, yes. That is something we are very interested in doing. We do need to try and find the best route in working on the crew version. First, it’s going to take some investment funding and that could be either internal, external, or a combination. The second thing is that we absolutely want to make sure we are successful on the cargo missions. So we’ve got to make sure the resources are directed towards making that cargo design and getting that vehicle built.
Whether we can actually go after that contract or not when it gets to that point, is going to be matter of whether we can get the right resources to get there.
When will the public see Dream Chaser fly for the first time?
Well that’s really up to NASA. NASA has not yet signed any of the task orders for specific missions. We have our first meetings in the next few weeks but they announced as part of the contract that the first cargo missions will begin in 2019. It doesn’t mean all three providers will be contracted to do cargo mission in 2019 so we still have to wait on NASA to see what our schedule will be for the first flight.
Read Article (Seemangal & Bosier | observer.com | 02/01/2016)
If you think what you see now is basically the extent of the Digital Era, you haven’t been paying attention. Just as some people actually think a phone can replace a computer, you’re not seeing the whole picture of computer evolution.
The Digital Era has only just begun and the mobile device we have today will evolve into a new generation of communications device, totally unlike its predecessor. It’s up to each individual to get a little Tech-savvy for their own wellbeing and that of their loved ones; Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.
Master Level High-Tech Webinars