Dream Chaser still alive!


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The competition heats up: Sierra Nevada (SNC) has announced a new effort to gain international customers for its Dream Chaser manned spacecraft.

From the press release:

SNC’s Global Project offers clients across the globe access to low Earth orbit (LEO) without the time, resources and financial burden of developing the necessary capabilities or infrastructure to support a mature human spaceflight program. The Global Project utilizes the Dream Chaser spacecraft as a baseline vehicle which, in turn, can be customized by the client for an array of missions to support government, commercial, academic and international goals. The individual mission customization of the Global Project can be applied to both crewed and uncrewed variants for a single dedicated mission or suite of missions.

This is excellent news, as it tells us that the company is not giving up on the spacecraft, and intends to push hard to finish it. Not only are they working make it a viable product to many customers and thus obtain the construction financing to build it outside of NASA’s manned program, they also appear ready to bid on NASA’s second round of cargo launches, using Dream Chaser as an unmanned cargo freighter to ISS.

In fact, I would not be surprised if NASA chooses Dream Chaser over Dragon for that second round of cargo deliveries. Dragon is slated for the manned flights, so the agency will need another vehicle to replace it. Why not give the contract to Sierra Nevada, thus providing NASA with two manned vehicles and three cargo vehicles, all capable of accessing the station.

All in all, this increasingly looks like a win-win situation for everyone.

13 comments

  • Kelly Starks

    >..This is excellent news, as it tells us that the company is not giving up on the spacecraft, and intends to push hard to finish it…

    They defiantly want to — they don’t however know how to fund doing it. They have been working on Dream Chaser for years out of pocket, but theres a lot of expensive work to do before they will have anything they can launch.

    I’m surprised your so excited by this article? How is it different from Roton, Kistler, Rocket-plane, etc making similar pitches over the years?

  • wodun

    “Dragon is slated for the manned flights, so the agency will need another vehicle to replace it.”

    Why would they need another vehicle to replace it? The crewed and cargo Dragons are different vehicles. There are many similarities between the two but there are also many differences. One berths and the other docks, for example.

    According to SNC, the Dream Chaser does have some advantages in returning cargo because it is a smoother ride.

    If the Dream Chaser is as robust as the x-37b space plane, perhaps they will find customers for missions that do not go to the ISS and require being in space for a long period of time.

    I am a little disappointed in SNC PR because they claimed to have some European nations on board already but it appears they didn’t.

  • geoffc

    Also, Cygnus is unlikely to compete for second set of Cargo missions. They have no launcher after they launch their CRS set. (NK-33/AJ-26 engines run out after this set of missions). With a new engine, they are starting with a fresh new booster. So more likely SpaceX Dragon and SNC Dream Chaser would make sense for CRS take 2.

    Do not forget Bigelow. They will need manned and cargo flights once they go live. So there should be a slightly larger market than just ISS flights.

  • The difference now is that there is a serious customer, NASA, willing to buy the privately-built product from a range of private companies, SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Orbital Sciences, rather then insist on those companies building its product.

    When Roton and Rocketplane were trying to get going, NASA was not interested in their product. Kistler had a NASA deal but for a variety of reasons couldn’t get the financing to build its spacecraft, as you need to have the financing first to pay for construction before NASA gives you any cash for achieving success.

  • Vladislaw

    Jeff Foust tweeted that Stratolauncher and Sierra Nevada are going to be making an announcement tomorrow about dreamchaser.

  • Kelly Starks

    >..The difference now is that there is a serious customer, NASA, willing to buy the privately-built product
    > from a range of private companies, SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Orbital Sciences, rather then insist
    > on those companies building its product.

    Given the winner were all capsules like Orion, largely developed with NASA money, that arguable. More to my point, how does this relate to the article..
    “..SNC’s Global Project offers clients across the globe access to low Earth orbit (LEO) ..” is just them pitching their ship – which they don’t have the funds to do yet – to a conference. NASAS has rejected their product (not sure how “interested in” they rae in COTS and commercial crew in general for that mater)

    >..as you need to have the financing first to pay for construction before NASA gives you any cash for achieving success.

    Not how it went for SpaceX.

  • Kelly Starks

    Announced on the 30th. A subscale dream chaser will be integrated in with the statolauncher system for cargo and crew delivery.

  • Pzatchok

    “Not how it went for SpaceX.”

    And especially not how it went for Boeing. They plan on making all their profit on “new” research and development. No need to even build the craft and fly it.

  • Kelly Starks

    Specifically SpaceX was paid before they developed or built their craft. Not correct according to the COtS rules.

    In the case of CCdev Boeings much farther along in the engineering (and according to rumors around here in Orbitec, rated higher in all criteria) then SNC or SpaceX. No ones going much farther without some checks from NASA, which are all now frozen.

  • Kelly Starks

    I think Lockheed is working on a cargo craft for the next CRS bid as well.

  • Kelly Starks

    Speaking of:
    http://online.wsj.com/articles/why-boeing-beat-spacex-in-nasas-space-taxi-contest-1412207046

    >…But the 29-page document, signed by NASA’s associate administrator William Gerstenmaier the day before the awards were announced, depicts more of a one-sided contest. Boeing ranked above SpaceX in every major category, from technical maturity to management competence to likelihood of sticking to a timetable.
    Boeing’s submission was considered “excellent” for “mission suitability,” whereas SpaceX got a “very good” ranking. The numerical scores for that category, according to one person familiar with the details, were separated by more than 60 points out of a possible 1,000. The document shows Boeing also garnered the highest ranking of “excellent” for technical approach and program management, compared with “very good” rankings for SpaceX.
    Based on Boeing’s performance on a preliminary contract, NASA concluded it had “very high confidence” in that company’s likelihood of delivering what it promised—the highest ranking possible.
    …<

  • Pzatchok

    And then Boeing announced its rag problem and how it would cost more in cash and time.

    Past performance is not an absolute indicator of present performance. Present performance is.

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