In the July 1 edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Guy Norris reports on the mounting pressure the budget squeeze has added to commercial crew tests. With Boeing and Space X both competing for NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP), the race is heating up. Read Guy's story: Boeing, SpaceX Detail Capsule Test Plans.
Meanwhile, the Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser engineering test article (ETA), which was awarded $212.5 million as part of the CCiCAP program, recently begun tow tests at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, California.
Here are Guy's photos and notes on the program.
The vehicle, which will conduct glide tests later this summer after being dropped from a hovering helicopter, began the build up to flight tests with a series of very low speed tow runs to check the wear of its nose skid on the paved taxiways at Dryden.
Sierra Nevada also recently successfully completed tests of the pyrotechnically-actuated flight termination system.
During its unveiling at Dryden in late May, the Dream Chaser was presented in company with the original NASA M2-F1 lifting body which first flew at the desert base in 1963. The modified half-cone shaped vehicle was built from plywood and tubular steel by glider designer Gus Briegleb, and towed into the air behind a souped-up Pontiac convertible driven at up to 120 mph across Rogers Dry Lake. With NASA research pilot Milt Thompson at the controls, the flimsy craft later flew to an altitude of 12,000 ft towed behind a U.S. Navy R4D. The M2-F1 was released from the tow and returned to the lakebed at speeds up to 120 mph. The M2-F1 was eventually flown 77 times before being retired and paved the way for a series of increasingly sophisticated vehicles like the M2-F2/F3, HL-10, X-24A and X-24B. The Dream Chaser is evolved from the HL-20, a proposed spaceplane concept from the late 1980s-early 1990s which leveraged both the original U.S. lifting body designs and the Soviet-era BOR-4 vehicle.
Watch the video of the Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser concept of operations.