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Satnews Daily
July 23rd, 2014

Sierra Nevada Corporation—Making It Past Milestone 9 (Spacecraft Testing)

[SatNews] Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has successfully passed Milestone 9, the Risk Reduction and Technology Readiness Level (TRL) Advancement Testing milestone, for several critical Dream Chaser® systems under NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement.

SNC former astronaut Lee Archambault prepares for Dream Chaser® Crew Systems Test.

Photo courtesy of Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Milestone 9 culminated in a major comprehensive review of various hardware systems. To date, SNC has received 92 percent of the total award value of the CCiCap agreement.

As defined in the Milestone 9 criteria, SNC completed a series of Risk Reduction and TRL advancements on five major systems on the technologically advanced, Dream Chaser spacecraft lifting-body design. The five specific systems subjected to extensive testing were: Crew Systems, Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS), Structures, Thermal Control (TCS) and Thermal Protection Systems (TPS). The comprehensive set of tests were in addition to the Risk Reduction and TRL advancement tests completed on the Main Propulsion System and Reaction Control System as part of the recently, and successfully, completed CCiCap Milestone 9a.

The data collected from the more than 3,500 tests completed over a year during these two milestones resulted in continued maturation of the Dream Chaser spacecraft design and significantly retired overall program risk. With the successful completion of Milestones 9 and 9a, SNC has continued to demonstrate, through rigorous testing, that it puts safety first as the team refines the highly capable spacecraft design that will ferry people to and from Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

The comprehensive Milestone 9 systems tests that were conducted included:

  • TPS: Extensive design qualification testing was conducted at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia through existing Space Act Agreements to validate TPS design performance. This effort included over 350 tests that allowed SNC to select the optimal TPS architecture for Dream Chaser to safely fly through the high-heat-load atmospheric environment during nominal return to Earth as well as during high altitude ascent aborts.
  • Structures: Numerous tests were conducted in collaboration with SNC Dream Team member Lockheed Martin at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana. More than 1,500 stress tests were executed on the primary structure to fully validate the strength and reliability of the Dream Chaser advanced composite structure.
  • Crew Systems: Multiple tests were performed at SNC’s Space Systems headquarters in Louisville, Colorado. These crew-related assessments included reach and visibility, as well as crew ingress and egress testing in the horizontal and vertical positions, all in the new full-scale Dream Chaser crew cabin mockup. Over 25 tests were conducted totaling more than 90 hours of data.
  • ECLSS: Human-in-the-loop tests were performed to analyze temperatures and metabolic rates for crew as part of an in-orbit simulation at Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITEC) of Wisconsin in conjunction with their teammate UTC Aerospace in Connecticut.
  • TCS: Both internal and external active thermal control of the spacecraft was successfully demonstrated through rigorous testing by Orbitec at their facilities.

SNC is working with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program during the development of the Dream Chaser—a safe, innovative, modern, flexible and highly-capable crew transportation system for the 21st Century. Dream Chaser provides the only reusable, human-rated, lifting-body spacecraft with a commercial runway landing capability, anywhere in the world.

For further details, please visit http://www.sncspace.com/