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Tue, Apr 22, 2014

Sierra Nevada Corp. Plans Dream Chaser Flights Later This Year

Dream Chaser, Boeing, And SpaceX Face NASA Evaluation In August

Sierra Nevada Corp. co-program director John Currie is reported to have said that the company will conduct additional drop tests of their Dream Chaser spacecraft at California’s Edwards Air Force Base in the fall of this year.

According to an article published on the Parabolic Arc website, this will be an upgraded version of the vehicle used in the landing tests last year. The upgraded software, guidance, avionics, navigation, and control systems used on this test vehicle are the same as planned for the dream chaser orbital flight.

However, despite the planned test by the Sierra Nevada Corp., this is a competition and they are completing against the Boeing Company and SpaceX. As the Sierra Nevada Corp. is moving forward, it is still 17 months behind its originally planned schedule. Boeing has also seen their schedule slip.

The article reports that NASA said it hopes to award the next round of contracts in August which means key criteria must be met by that time for competing companies. NASA has already amended the agreements and extended the current testing round from the April-May time frame to August.

In October of last year the dream chaser was dropped from a helicopter and glided to a landing. While the flight parameters went as planned, its left landing gear failed to properly deploy resulting in damage to the spacecraft. This flight was performed by automated systems; no crew was on board. Despite the landing accident, NASA accepted the flight as a milestone for the Sierra Nevada Corp., and they received a $7 million milestone payment from NASA.

The competition goes on and private companies come closer to providing NASA with manned low orbit spaceflight.

(Dream Chaser pictured in file photos)

FMI: www.sncorp.com

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