In a nod to test-pilot tradition, two fuzzy dice hang on the flight deck of Sierra Nevada Corp.’s pilotless Dream Chaser prototype space plane. (NASA Photo via SNC)
Last weekend’s gliding drop test of a prototype Dream Chaser space plane went so well that the next flight might be the one that goes all the way to the International Space Station in 2020, Sierra Nevada Corp. executives said today.
The road ahead depends on the performance data that was gained when the engineering test article glided down to a picture-perfect runway landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California on Saturday.
But if the results are as positive as preliminary readouts suggest, the plane can go into retirement after just two free-flying tests, said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area. “This vehicle will not need further flight tests,” he told reporters.
The data from the test will be used to fine-tune the design for a space-worthy version of the Dream Chaser, which is due to take shape over the next couple of years.
Stevel Lindsey, vice president of SNC’s Space Exploration Systems, said the orbital vehicle would undergo extensive ground testing as well as computerized checkouts. Some tests would take place inside a vacuum chamber. But the first flight would come when it carries cargo to the space station.
“We do flight testing based on specific test objectives we need to design, build and certify the Dream Chaser Cargo System — future atmospheric flight testing will not provide us any additional information if we’ve accomplished all of our test objectives on this flight (based on our data analysis),” Lindsey said in an email sent to GeekWire. “Space shuttle used a similar process and rationale; they went straight from glide testing to orbital spaceflight.”
Today SNC shared a video of Saturday’s test …read more