More key testing for Louisville spacecraft
Sierra Nevada Corp.’s vehicle for manned space flight is headed to the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center this summer for new landing tests on a runway in the middle of the Mojave Desert. No specific date has been set for the next test, which is called a “full-scale drop test,” said Krystal Scordo, a Sierra Nevada Corp. spokeswoman.
The vehicle, which resembles the space shuttle, is made in Louisville. It is designed to carry as many as seven astronauts to the International Space Station or to make sub-orbital flights high in the atmosphere.
Sierra Nevada has been awarded $106.5 million so far from NASA for passing key milestones set up as part of the federal Commercial Crew Development Program. The commercial program is designed to replace NASA’s space shuttle program, which ended in August. Dream Chaser is the new program’s only spacecraft that has wings and is designed to land on a conventional airport runway.
For this summer’s test, Sierra Nevada workers are looking for a vehicle that can carry Dream Chaser to an unspecified high altitude before releasing it to fly back to the runway. After that test is completed successfully, Sierra Nevada will schedule Dream Chaser for a suborbital flight test, Scordo said.
Sierra Nevada is looking to this summer’s “full-scale drop test” after successfully completing its first flight test in Colorado on Tuesday, May 29.
In that “captive carry” test, an Erickson Air-Crane helicopter carried the space vehicle aloft for about an hour to test its aerodynamic flight performance. That test took place over mostly empty land on the former Rocky Flats plant site between Boulder and Golden, said Kenny Maenpa, general manager at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield, which hosted the test.
“This is a very positive success for the Dream Chaser team and their innovative approach,” Ed Mango, a NASA program manager, said in the press statement. “I applaud and encourage the designers and engineers to continue their efforts in meeting the objectives of the rest of their … milestones.”
The Dream Chaser previously passed tests indicating that its main landing gear would work and that it could separate from the planned launch vehicle, a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.
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