Dream Chaser spaceplane nears flight readiness with completion of key pre-flight tests

Dream Chaser spaceplane nears flight readiness with completion of key pre-flight tests

by Clarence Oxford

Los Angeles CA (SPX) Mar 11, 2024

Sierra Space, a pioneering force in commercial space exploration and defense technology, recently announced the achievement of a significant milestone for its innovative Dream Chaser spaceplane, Tenacity, following the conclusion of the initial environmental testing phase. Conducted at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio, this phase marks a crucial step in the spacecraft’s journey towards operational readiness.

Within the last month, the Dream Chaser and its accompanying cargo module, Shooting Star, underwent extensive vibration assessments. These tests, critical for launch preparedness, simulated the extreme conditions experienced during ascent. The procedure was carried out at the NASA facility’s Mechanical Vibration Facility, where the spacecraft, configured for launch, was subjected to the intense vibrational forces characteristic of spacecraft launch scenarios, utilizing the world’s most advanced spacecraft shaker table.

Tom Vice, CEO of Sierra Space, reflected on the journey to this point: “After years of diligent development, overcoming engineering challenges unique to pioneering aerospace technologies, we’re transitioning from a developmental phase to operational capabilities. This year signifies a pivotal shift in our approach to space exploration, enhancing the connection between space and Earth.”

Jake Ingram, Dream Chaser’s Director of Programs, highlighted the importance of the vibration testing, stating, “Achieving this milestone is a testament to our team’s commitment and the Dream Chaser program’s progress. We’ve effectively demonstrated the spacecraft’s durability under launch conditions, validating its structural integrity and operational reliability post-testing.”

This phase encompassed several critical tests: Sine Vibration Testing across all three axes, a Separation Shock Test that mimics the Dream Chaser’s detachment from the Shooting Star, and a deployment test of the spaceplane’s wings. These evaluations were designed to ascertain the Dream Chaser’s resilience to launch stresses, operational functionality in orbit, and compatibility with the International Space Station (ISS).

A notable part of this testing phase was ‘Joint Test #3’, an integrated system assessment simulating the spaceplane’s post-launch operations, including wing deployment and semi-autonomous flight to the ISS. This test was centered on verifying the software interactions between Dream Chaser and the ISS, ensuring command and data exchange functionalities were up to standard.

Following the completion of these tests, the Shooting Star cargo module was separated from the Dream Chaser and moved from the Armstrong Test Facility to the In-Space Propulsion (ISP) facility for further assessments. The Dream Chaser is slated to join the cargo module at the ISP facility shortly, where both spacecraft will undergo thermal vacuum testing, marking another critical milestone towards launch readiness and Sierra Space’s vision for space commercialization.

Related Links

Sierra Space

Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

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