Spaceflight Insider

Dream Chaser set to begin Phase Two flight testing

Sierra Nevada Corporation Dream Chaser spacecraft departs International Space Station image credit James Vaughan SpaceFlight Insider

Image Credit: James Vaughan / SpaceFlight Insider

After upgrades and hardware testing at Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) spacecraft assembly facility in Louisville, Colorado, an engineering test version of the Dream Chaser vehicle will be transported to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) in California within the next several weeks.

Upon arrival, SNC will begin a series of pre-flight ground evaluations to verify and validate the vehicle’s systems. After successful completion of all ground testing, Dream Chaser will begin its Phase Two free-flight testing in coordination with Edwards Air Force Base (AFB). These activities are being conducted through a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

Dream Chaser test article

Photo Credit: SNC

“Dream Chaser continues to make strong progress toward orbital flight,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business sector. “In addition to Phase Two flight testing, our on-time completion of the first two milestones under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract in the last two months positions us well to be on-schedule for orbital operational flight. We are very grateful for all the support we have received from NASA and the U.S. Air Force, and [we] are excited to continue the legacy of historic flight testing that is the hallmark of NASA AFRC and Edwards AFB.”

The Phase Two tests will build on those performed in Phase One, including tow-tests, pre-flight tests and ending with free-flight testing. SNC is also performing additional tests to validate the Dream Chaser’s orbital flight software and calculate the spacecraft’s handling and performance characteristics.

Along with other pre-flight and post-flight evaluations, this data will be used to confirm Dream Chaser’s subsonic aerodynamic properties as well as flight software and control system performance requirements.

“These tests are significant for us in multiple ways; building on our previous flight test, completing a significant milestone under our CCP agreement, as well as gathering crucial data that will help complete the design of the vehicle being built for our CRS-2 contract,” Sirangelo said.

Dream Chaser was awarded a CRS-2 contract from NASA in January 2016 for a total of six resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS). The Phase Two flight test efforts will support and take place in parallel with continued work being done by SNC under the CRS-2 program.

The test vehicle has been upgraded to include several hardware and software components being integrated into the Dream Chaser Cargo System design for the CRS-2 program allowing for actual flight testing of the new components. The flight tests will act as a bridge between previous work with CCP and the next-generation vehicle currently under development for the forthcoming space station cargo resupply missions.

As was reported at SpaceNews, at the NewSpace 2016 conference Sirangelo said he expects the first Dream Chaser mission to the ISS in the second half of 2019, pending decisions NASA will make later this year on CRS-2 manifests. These manifests will also include Orbital ATK’s Cygnus and SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft.


Eric Shear is a recent graduate from York University, honors bachelor in space science. Before that, Shear studied mechanical engineering at Tacoma Community College. During this time, Shear helped develop the HYDROS water-electrolysis propulsion system at Tethers Unlimited and led a microgravity experiment on the Weightless Wonder parabolic aircraft. Shear has worked for an extended period of time to both enable and promote space flight awareness. Shear agreed to contribute to SpaceFlight Insider’s efforts so that he could provide extra insight into interplanetary missions, both past and present.

Reader Comments

Joseph L. Brown

Good Job, you folks at SN! Good luck with Dream Chaser — perhaps you can parlay the cargo vehicle into a manned version for CCtCap missions…. We’re gonna need a bunch of different vehicles once commercial space stations are a thing, and I look forward to SN being one of the players!

“… will be transported to NASA’s AFRC within the next several weeks.”

I’m just now reading this, in early November. Is it there yet? I look forward to reading about the results of this next phase of testing, and maybe even seeing video of the flight tests. Good luck, everybody!

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