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Fuzzy dice on Dream Chaser
Science & Technology

SNC shows off video of what could be Dream Chaser space plane’s last test flight

Last weekend’s drop test of a prototype Dream Chaser space plane went so effectively that the subsequent flight would possibly be the one which goes all the best way to the Worldwide Space Station in 2020, Sierra Nevada Corp. executives stated at the moment.

The highway forward depends upon the efficiency information that was gained when the engineering test article glided all the way down to a picture-perfect runway touchdown at Edwards Air Power Base in California on Saturday.

But when the outcomes are as constructive as preliminary readouts counsel, the 30-foot-long airplane can go into retirement after simply two free-flying exams, stated Mark Sirangelo, company vp of SNC’s Space Programs enterprise space. “This automobile is not going to want additional flight exams,” he informed reporters.

The info from the test will be used to fine-tune the design for a space-worthy model of the Dream Chaser, which is because of take form over the subsequent couple of years.

Steve Lindsey, vp of SNC’s Space Exploration Programs, stated the orbital automobile would endure in depth floor testing in addition to computerized checkouts. Some exams would happen inside a vacuum chamber. However the first flight would come when it carries cargo to the space station.

“We do flight testing primarily based on particular test targets we have to design, construct and certify the Dream Chaser Cargo System — future atmospheric flight testing is not going to present us any extra info if we’ve completed all of our test targets on this flight (primarily based on our information evaluation),” Lindsey defined in an e mail despatched to GeekWire.  “Space shuttle used the same course of and rationale; they went straight from glide testing to orbital spaceflight.”

As we speak SNC shared a video of Saturday’s test flight in addition to its basic statistics: The uncrewed airplane was lofted 12,400 ft into the air by a Columbia 234-UT helicopter, then launched at 9:51 a.m. PT Saturday for a gliding flight that reached a most pace of 330 mph. The prototype flew for a minute, touched down on the runway touring at 191 mph, and rolled for 4,200 ft earlier than braking to a cease.

Sirangelo stated the efficiency “was what we wished it to be.”

He famous that the test came about 40 years after NASA’s atmospheric-test shuttle prototype, the Enterprise, flew freely for the primary time at Edwards. “We’ve picked up the torch for winged automobiles, actually persevering with the lengthy custom of Edwards flight-testing distinctive automobiles,” Sirangelo stated.

The weekend flight follows up on an preliminary drop test that came about at Edwards again in 2013. On the finish of that test, the touchdown gear malfunctioned, and the plane slid off the runway and crashed.

SNC took benefit of the down time to improve some of the programs aboard the engineering test automobile to replicate extra of the design for the orbital automobile. Lindsey stated the upgrades included the avionics and flight software program, in addition to information sensors and thermal safety tiles.

Lindsey, a five-time shuttle astronaut who joined SNC in 2011, stated he skilled a flashback as he watched the autonomous Dream Chaser descend to a touchdown on Saturday.

“I felt like I kinda knew what it was feeling,” he stated.

Watching the descent along with his workforce was “the longest minute of our lives … but it surely positive was rewarding on the finish when it touched down safely,” Lindsey stated.

Sirangelo joked that Lindsey “actually wished to get in and fly it himself.”

SNC is sharing its information with NASA, which is able to choose whether or not the outcomes fulfill its necessities for a last cost underneath the phrases of a five-year-old contract for growth of a crewed automobile.

Dream Chaser wasn’t chosen for additional work on the crewed model, however the uncrewed model is because of be part of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus capsule as a cargo carrier. NASA has contracted for not less than six round-trip cargo shipments between 2019 and 2024.

Sirangelo stated not less than two orbital-class Dream Chasers would be constructed to service NASA’s wants in addition to these of different prospects, including the United Nations. The primary flight would launch from Florida, atop United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, and land again on the runway as soon as utilized by space shuttles.

SNC nonetheless holds out hope {that a} totally different variant of the Dream Chaser could ultimately carry astronauts as effectively. If the corporate ever must conduct exams for a crew-capable space airplane, the engineering test article would nearly actually be referred to as out of retirement.

“That’s why we’re going to maintain this automobile in flyable storage,” Lindsey stated.

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