Sierra Nevada Corporation with their Dream Chaser reached next milestone of CRS2 contract and is planning resuming flights of its spaceplane later this year.
Company announced on July 11, 2016 on their website about acquiring NASA approval for design, development, test and evaluation program of Dream Chaser. Plans were prepared as ISS Integration Certification Milestone 1, which also covers detailed information about schedule, organizational structure and risk management of further development of the project. Under this milestone company also received confirmation from NASA of general schedule of certification process of Dream Chaser including most important FAA certificate, which is necessary to start launches under CRS2. These steps were necessary and are opening door for six contracted cargo missions planned for years 2019-2024.
Second important news is referring to continuing flight test of Dream Chaser under Space Act Agreements with one of the most important NASA programs: Commercial Crew Program. As we remember Dream Chaser was originally designed as manned spacecraft to meet demands of CCP. Unfortunately spaceplane failed to meet demands of NASA and was not taken under consideration as future manned vehicle since September 2014, when Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Dragon were awarded with CCP phase 2 contracts (Commercial Crew Transportation Capability-CCtCap). Protest by Sierra Nevada, which stopped work under their projects by Boeing and SpaceX, was rejected by The Government Accountability Office finally on January 2015.
Sierra Nevada managed to win CRS2 contract and Dream Chaser in cargo version seemed to have more luck (recently Company signed agreement with United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs to utilize Dream Chaser in programs lead by UNOOSA). But still, as one of the most promising and most advanced construction of spaceplane in the USA, it will be flight tested under SAA. According to official statement, this time construction of Dream Chaser was changed due the lack of limitations from CCtCap program:
“It was previously flown at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center and is being prepared for its second flight test through the SAA. It has been significantly upgraded in multiple areas to allow for testing to advance and verify critical systems which will also be used in the next generation vehicle currently under development for the forthcoming NASA ISS cargo resupply missions.”
Details on construction modifications were not described but surely will be announced before first flights. Probably Dream Chaser will serve as technology demonstrator and will help in many joint projects of NASA and Sierra Nevada Corporation.