An atmospheric take a look at article of Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser spaceship made a profitable runway touchdown Saturday at Edwards Air Force Base in California after a glide take a look at flight carried out to confirm the craft’s dealing with qualities and steerage programs earlier than future resupply missions to the International Space Station.
The unpiloted spacecraft was dropped from a helicopter and landed on Runway 22L at Edwards, the identical touchdown strip that returning area shuttles as soon as used.
Sierra Nevada celebrated the accomplishment on Twitter, releasing 4 images of the Dream Chaser’s flight take a look at, which was anticipated and lengthy deliberate, however not publicly introduced prematurely. More data and imagery of the touchdown shall be launched Monday, the corporate mentioned.
SNC is proud to announce the Dream Chaser® spacecraft had a profitable free-flight take a look at as we speak @EdwardsAFB, with badist of @NASAArmstrong. The Dream Chaser had a lovely flight and touchdown! pic.twitter.com/lAn0n7FPsg
— Sierra Nevada Corp (@SierraNevCorp) November 12, 2017
Roughly one-quarter the size of an area shuttle orbiter, the Dream Chaser was to be launched from a heavy-duty service helicopter at an altitude of round 10,000 ft (three,000 meters) for the strategy and touchdown take a look at, Sierra Nevada officers beforehand mentioned.
The spacecraft was carried aloft beneath the helicopter related with a 200-foot (60-meter) carry line, then positioned for the drop. The Dream Chaser’s on-board steerage laptop was anticipated to maneuver the ship with its aerosurfaces, then line up with the runway for a steep remaining strategy.
Two most important touchdown gear wheels and and a nostril skid deployed from the underside the spaceplane simply earlier than landing.
Sierra Nevada is growing the Dream Chaser in partnership with NASA to hold cargo and experiments to the area station. It will launch on high of a rocket and land on a runway, returning gear and experiment specimens to the bottom for fast handover to engineers and scientists.
Based on NASA’s HL-20 lifting physique design and initially proposed to ferry astronauts, the Dream Chaser has morphed into an automatic provide ship. The Dream Chaser was a finalist for NASA’s industrial crew program alongside capsule designs developed by Boeing and SpaceX, receiving greater than $360 million in authorities funding ensures to badist design and testing efforts.
But NASA chosen Boeing and SpaceX to finish their crew capsules after a contest in 2014, leaving Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser with an unsure future. But Sierra Nevada engineers redesigned the spaceplane for cargo missions and gained a profitable NASA contract in January 2016 for not less than six round-trip flights to and from the area station.
The first orbital flight of the Dream Chaser is scheduled round 2020, lifting off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, and certain returning to the touch down on the Shuttle Landing Facility runway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Sierra Nevada is contributing its personal funding to the Dream Chaser program and is answerable for improvement testing. The monetary phrases of NASA’s resupply contract haven’t been disclosed, however the deal’s worth is believed to be greater than $1 billion.
The profitable landing Saturday got here greater than 4 years after the identical Dream Chaser take a look at car crash-landed on its first strategy and touchdown demonstration. The ship’s left most important touchdown gear didn’t lengthen earlier than it reached the runway, and the Dream Chaser misplaced management and skidded to a cease.
Sierra Nevada mentioned the 2013 flight was profitable till that time, and Dream Chaser’s autopilot touchdown system steered the craft towards the runway for a landing on the centerline.
Engineers blamed the mishap on a touchdown gear borrowed from a U.S. Air Force F-5E jet. Future Dream Chaser cargo missions to the area station will fly with a special touchdown gear, and the refurbished spaceship that flew Saturday carried a touchdown gear extra superior then the one at fault in 2013.
Engineers additionally upgraded the ship’s laptop programs to be extra just like the orbital model of the Dream Chaser.
Ground groups transported the broken car again to Sierra Nevada’s area division headquarters in Louisville, Colorado, for repairs and upgrades. The craft returned to the Mojave Desert take a look at web site in California in January for a collection of tow badessments and captive carry aerial flights beneath a helicopter to examine its braking and steering capabilities, radio telemetry hyperlinks, and steerage and navigation gear earlier than officers dedicated to a free flight.
Sierra Nevada is ready to obtain a multimillion-dollar award fee from NASA after the profitable strategy and touchdown take a look at.
Company officers mentioned the take a look at car that flew Saturday featured space-rated avionics and flight software program that shall be used on Dream Chaser missions to the area station. Lockheed Martin has partnered with Sierra Nevada to provide the composite structural shell for orbital-clbad Dream Chaser autos.
The Dream Chaser is able to delivering greater than 12,000 kilos (5,500 kilograms) of kit to the area station inside its pressurized compartment and on an exterior aft-mounted payload service. At the top of every flight, the 2 elements will detach, with the Dream Chaser area airplane returning to Earth with badysis specimens and different gear, and the disposable cargo module burning up within the ambiance to incinerate trash.
Based on a lifting physique aerodynamic design, the Dream Chaser will weigh about 20 tons absolutely loaded, seemingly requiring the carry functionality of ULA’s strongest Atlas 5 configuration, the “552” with 5 strap-on strong rocket boosters and a twin-engine Centaur higher stage, in keeping with Sierra Nevada officers.
Sierra Nevada additionally has agreements with the European Space Agency to review using Dream Chaser to offer entry to area for European badysis experiments after the top of the area station program within the 2020s. The United Nations agreed final 12 months to buy a standalone unpiloted Dream Chaser mission to Earth orbit in 2021 to host badysis payloads from growing nations.
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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.