Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser lifting body docked to Internation Space Station

The addition of Lockheed Martin to the Dream Chaser team is interesting in a number of ways. The commercial human spaceflight market is no longer limited to new companies and small players. All of the major US aerospace companies now have a foot in the door. Boeing is developing the CST-100 crew capsule under NASA’s CCDev program. Northrop Grumman owns Scaled Composites, which is building the SpaceShip Two prototype and also a partner in Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch. Orbital Sciences is also a partner in Stratolaunch. And Lockheed Martin is now partnering with Sierra Nevada to help develop the world’s first manned orbital lifting body.

Dream Chaser will be the first time a lifting body has carried humans into space, but the new partnership builds on decades of lifting-body experience from the Martin side of Lockheed Martin. Martin Marietta, one of Lockheed’s heritage companies, built the X-24A lifting body for the US Air Force in the  late 60’s and rebuilt it as the X-24B in the early 1970’s. The X-24B had a new shape, derived from wind-tunnel testing, which promised greatly improved lift/drag at hypersonic speeds. Both lifting bodies used the same Reaction Motors XLR11-RM-13 rocket engine, an evolved version of the XLR-RM-5 that propelled Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1 through the sound barrier in 1946.

Martin Marietta X-24B lifting-body experimental test vehicle (USAF/NASA)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on January 31st, 2013 , Lockheed Martin

Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser launch from Florida Kennedy Space Center

On Wednesday, Sierra Nevada Corporation held a press conference to make a major announcement concerning the development of its development its Dream Chaser lifting body. The question-and-answer session also revealed interesting facts about Sierra Nevada’s plans for Dream Chaser, which are not limited to the International Space Station.

The major topic of the press conference was Sierra Nevada’s new partnership with Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. Lockheed Martin, it was announced, will build the composite structure for the Dream Chaser flight test article at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana. The structure is being built under the $212.5 million Space Act Agreement which Sierra Nevada recieved under the NASA Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Program. Lockheed Martin will also serve as a certification partner to help Sierra Nevada achieve NASA’s certification requirements for carrying crew to the International Space Station.

During the question-and-answer session, Mark Sirangelo said the destination for Dream Chaser is Low Earth Orbit, not just the International Space Station. Sirangelo is Sierra Nevada’s corporate vice president and head of Space Systems.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on January 31st, 2013 , Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada