The first structural component of Sierra Nevada’s lifting-body spaceplane, Dream Chaser, was revealed to the press today.
At a joint press conference, Sierra Nevada and Lockheed Martin unveiled the first component of Dream Chaser’s composite airframe. Unlike the previous flight-test article, which Sierra Nevada built for atmospheric approach and landing tests, this airframe will actually go into space. The first orbital test flight is currently scheduled for November 2016 on top of an Atlas V rocket.
Lockheed Martin, which is Sierra Nevada’s structural subcontractor, began fabrication of the Dream Chaser orbital spacecraft structure at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans earlier this year. The Michoud plant was previously used to fabricate Space Shuttle external tanks and is currently manufacturing components for NASA’s Orion capsule.
After fabrication and inspection process at Michoud, Dream Chaser structural components will be transported to Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics facility in Fort Worth for airframe integration and assembly. The Fort Worth plant currently manufactures the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-35 Lighting II.
The completed structure will then be transferred to Sierra Nevada’s Louisville, Colorado facility for final integration and assembly.
Lockheed Martin is also supporting Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser in vehicle assembly, integration, environmental testing, ground support equipment, flight certification and spacecraft launch and recovery. This work is performed at various Lockheed Martin facilities in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Colorado.