The Dream Chaser is expected to undergo its second glide test as early as next week according to NASA representatives. The expected date of the test was revealed by NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, Bill Gerstenmaier at a House Science Committee hearing on November 9.
Responding to a question from Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) at the hearing, Gerstenmaier explained, “They [Sierra Nevada Corporation] have a drop test on the 14th of this month to look at their vehicle coming back.”
Sierra Nevada has not yet confirmed the date and when questioned appeared to be a lot less sure of a November 14 deadline. In a statement given to SpaceNews, the company revealed that all they were willing to confirm was that the test would likely be completed this year. Officials cited the availability of helicopters and access to NASA and Air Force facilities as mitigating factors that may delay the test.
Just over four years ago in October 2013, Sierra Nevada conducted the Dream Chaser’s first glide test. Although one of the vehicle’s landing gears did not deploy on landing, the test was largely hailed as a success. The failed landing gear meant that the Dream Chaser skidding on its underside and suffered only minor damage.
Although Sierra Nevada’s variant of the Dream Chaser is relatively untested, the vehicle design is one of the most tested in history. This is as a result of the vehicle design and variants of it being tested through a number of different programmes.
Although intended as a crew transport, NASA awarded their International Space Station (ISS) crew transport missions to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014. However, Sierra Nevada and the Dream Chaser managed to secure NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) 2 contract along with SpaceX and Orbital ATK. Beginning in 2020, the CRS 2 mission will utilise an unmanned variety of the Dream Chaser to complete ISS cargo runs.
Image Credit: NASA