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NASA Awards Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser an ISS Commercial Resupply Contract (examiner.com) 57

MarkWhittington writes: The Verge reported that NASA has awarded the second round of contracts for the commercial resupply program. Two companies, SpaceX, and Orbital Sciences, which have been hauling cargo to the International Space Station in the first phase of the program, will receive contracts to fly at least six flights each to the ISS through 2024, the anticipated end of operations year for the space station. But Sierra Nevada has also gotten a six flight commitment, using a cargo version of its Dream Chaser spacecraft.
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NASA Awards Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser an ISS Commercial Resupply Contract

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  • I'm sure the brewery of the same name would like a contract to resupply the ISS as well.
    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      On the surface of it that sounds good, but many food and drink products do not translate well to microgravity, and given beer's carbon dioxide content and how once the container is opened dissolved carbon dioxide will release from the liquid, beer seems like it would be a poor choice of beverage to try to drink in such circumstances. The carbon dioxide would not rise out of the container like we're used to and probably would force the liquid out of the opening in the vessel.

      And that's not even getting t
  • by XXongo ( 3986865 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @12:19AM (#51305093) Homepage
    Cool! It will be great to see some winged spacecraft again!
    • Cool! It will be great to see some winged spacecraft again!

      It is conceptually the same thing as the shuttle and vertical launch will eventually result in the same structural metal fatigue and heat shield bonding problems that got the shuttle program cancelled after the second failure in 2003.

      • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @01:29AM (#51305301) Homepage Journal

        WTF are you talking about?

        The second failure was due to the sidemount configuration, with a foam impact on the leading edge of the wing.

        This is a topmount configuration, so there's no chance of that.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Mil space policy has not really changed much from the 1970's.
      The US needs to place spy satellites, collect/alter any other nations satellites as needed and return to a few different very secure runways as an interesting long term next gen design consideration.
      All with the nice PR spin of reuse, precious science experiments "returning" and massive cost savings of a winged space plane :)
      A very public water landing or not atmosphere ready is not what the US mil missions need long term.
    • by necro81 ( 917438 )
      Wings on a spacecraft are superfluous. They look cool only because of human conceits about what a spacecraft ought to look like. Damn you, Buck Rogers!

      Wings on a hypersonic re-entry vehicle? Oh yeah, that's cool.
    • Cool! It will be great to see some winged spacecraft again!

      You mean like the one that's in space right now? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @12:42AM (#51305175)

    Am I reading this wrong or is this essentially a contract to ULA by proxy as the Dream Chaser is launched atop an Altas V? ULA had the CST-100 in development as their direct crew / cargo craft but it was knocked out of competition.

    So unless I'm mistaken this end up being a contract for the 3 main launch systems, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences and ULA.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ULA had the CST-100 in development as their direct crew / cargo craft but it was knocked out of competition.

      CST-100 was not knocked out of competition. They are getting lots of money (more than SpaceX) to do crew launches, nominally starting in 2017.

      (They lost a cargo bid, but that was never the main purpose of CST-100 to begin with.)

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The US could find a really good design that it can still produce and get many different brands to build the bespoke top part.
      Add on different top parts and hope the sensitive payloads dont get too much of a mission ending shaking as the big rocket was totally designed for a different generation of missions.
      Or give one huge no bid contract for a real rocket and correct top part to one company that can still design it all really well.
      Or keep importing really well made rockets and fitting the non mil 100% m
    • Rockets cost a lot of money, but spacecraft aren't cheap, either. Dragon, Cygnus, and Dream Chaser (assuming it ever goes anywhere) are major R&D costs, plus a bunch of complicated engineering to manufacture.

      As for launchers, Dream Chaser may currently be slated to fly on Atlas V, but Falcon Heavy (or something else) could end up taking that role. By the time Dream Chaser is operational, Atlas V may well no longer be the best option in its weight class.

      Also, for something that needs a pretty heavy booster, the Dream Chaser cargo capacity is miserable. I suppose that's not surprising, given the weight cost of its chosen landing mechanism, but it does make me wonder *why* they chose that mechanism.

  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @12:47AM (#51305189) Journal

    If the cargo version of the Dream Chaser (which I note is also winged and reusable), can be launched on the Falcon 9X (I think this is the version that has the reusable first stage) then almost the entire vehicle is reusable!

    I think it will, unfortunately, still require a (small?) second stage to get it into orbit but perhaps the Dream Chaser (cargo version) can boost itself into orbit. In any case it would provide another reusable re-entry option for the Falcon (the Dragon space capsule of course has been proven to be recoverable).

    Interesting to note that the wings on the Dream Chaser are folding so it can fit inside a launch fairing. Is this the normal launch profile? Does it never launch "naked" with wings unfolded? Perhaps the aerodynamics are just too problematic for a winged vehicle on the tip of a booster stack. Maybe that's why the crewed version didn't get approved (it would not be good to have the crew inside a launch fairing in case of an accident).

    • Interesting to note that the wings on the Dream Chaser are folding so it can fit inside a launch fairing. Is this the normal launch profile? Does it never launch "naked" with wings unfolded?

      It can launch on a smaller rocket with the fairing, or on an Atlas V without the fairing. I expect manned launches will be without the fairing. Assuming they every fly the thing, rather than doing nothing but aerodynamic testing on the lifting body.

      A lot of the engineering pace at which these things proceed seems rather absurd, to me. It's like the scaled down hyperloop test track: why build small, when it costs the same to build at deployment size, with the benefit that you don't have to retool or reeng

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 15, 2016 @02:53AM (#51305477)
    I'm posting anonymously because I used to work for SNC [wikipedia.org] a few year ago and I don't want them to come after me.

    They're intrinsically corrupt, and specialize in getting work by greasing the palms of politicians and giving sinecure jobs to retired high ranking military types.

    Unusually for a medium large defense contractor, SNC is not a publicly held company. It's completely owned by a husband and wife team, the Ozmans. They are of Turkish decent and Mr Ozman was originally a Turkish national. I have met them and had some casual conversations.

    The fact that SNC has no share holders changes their reporting requirements and makes it easy for them to do things for people who "help" them.

    Before I worked at SNC they were closely involved both professionally and personally with JIm Gibbons [wikipedia.org], former Governor and House Member for Nevada. He's a real piece of work. While he was in office SNC hired Gibbon's wife as a consultant for a very murky position. When this came out there were a lot of calls for an investigation but nothing happened. The Ozmans and Gibbons went on a junket to Turkey and Gibbons was never able to produce any documentation showing that he had paid for anything on the trip. That looks like a form of bribery to anyone who has a pulse, but again there was no follow up. It's interesting that the owners of a military contracting company should be so close to a politition called "one of America's worst governors" by CREW [wikipedia.org].

    SNC has huge clout in Nevada because they are the biggest military contractor with headquarters in the state. Other contractor do a lot of work there, but have there home office somewhere else. This means that any Federal level militarily pork that is going into Nevada is very likely to end up at SNC.

    I'm 100% certain that if you were to spend some time searching press releases, you would discover that a fair number of former high level government/military types from the space program took their retirement and now have juicy jobs at SNC. They're might even be some fancy vacations/fact finding trips in the mix, but I bet that the kind of inducements being offered at this point are a lot less crude.

    SNC getting a plumb ISS resupply contract is very strange. SNC does not build any of the major Dream Chaser components themselves. United Launch Alliance is supplying the launch system and Lockheed-Martin builds the supply capsule. The capsule design is based on old NASA lifting body work. It's not clear if SNC is building anything, even the avionics. What they appear to be doing is acting as a systems integrator with no investment in original technology. They may be the only organization in the world that is getting paid for space access that does not have any proprietary expertise in space technology. SNC also bought a micro-satellite company, but that has very little to do with the resupply contract.

    So without doing something underhanded, how does a company with such shallow technical credentials get a contract like this? (Sound of crickets...)

  • There is just something sexy about this little craft, and I think it has some of the same allure as the old Boeing X20 Dyna-Soar design. It's kind of an irrational thing, but I'm glad they got the nod as I've really wanted to see it fly. The Dyna-Soar was also a small design winged craft meant to be put on top a rocket for launch, but never got past design and planning. To quote the Wikipedia page, it "suffered from two major problems: uncertainty over the booster to be used to send the craft into orbi
    • That's because the Dream Catcher is an evolution of the NASA family of lifting bodies that includes the Dyna Soar. It is not a new design from scratch, it's the most recent spin [wordpress.com] on a concept that was developed by both the US and the USSR. Yes, design elements pioneered by in the USSR were copied by NASA for spaceplane use.

      Sexy is meaningless for real space work. The lunar landing module was not sexy, it was practical. You want sexy, go and look at fantasy rocket designs for 1930 pulp science fiction magazi

  • by NetNed ( 955141 )
    Wait, what kind of beer from Sierra Nevada? Is it like their pale ale?
    • Because only a single company based in a certain geographical region is ever permitted to be named after the major geographical feature of that region...

      • by NetNed ( 955141 )
        No, because some douche bag that doesn't get a joke will comment because he is too much of a shithead to enjoy life.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.