June 13, 2012

NASA Langley celebrates five-year partnership with Sierra Nevada

Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center are marking five years of collaboration with Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems in Louisville, Colo., as partners in the design and development of the Dream Chaser® Space System.

NASA Langley and SNC joined forces to update Langley’s HL-20 lifting body vehicle design into the Dream Chaser orbital crew vehicle, which is being developed as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program. Langley engineers had devised a development plan for the HL-20 in the 1980s and 90s, creating pilot landing scenarios in simulators, testing designs in wind tunnels and even building a full-scale model – with the help of universities – to study crew challenges.

“We’re thrilled to see our HL-20 design being advanced by Sierra Nevada and glad to have the chance to work with the company on the further development of its Dream Chaser,” said Robbie Kerns, manager of the Commercial Space Projects Office at NASA Langley.

“NASA Langley has been an engaged and supportive partner since the beginning of our Dream Chaser Program,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of Sierra Nevada Space Systems. “The Dream Chaser was born at NASA through the great work of the Langley Center. We would not be where we are without the talented NASA people, past and present, who have enabled our Dream Chaser vehicle to start its operational flight testing.”

Sirangelo recently visited NASA Langley in Hampton, Va., as part of this commemoration and for a joint corporate/government executive session on the program.

The NASA-SNC team has joined together with engineers at United Launch Alliance, makers of Dream Chaser’s launch vehicle, the Atlas V, to perform buffet tests on the launch vehicle/orbital crew vehicle stack. Testing just completed in NASA Langley’s Transonic Dynamics Tunnel will evaluate the pressure fluctuations the launch vehicle stack may experience during its ascent to low Earth orbit.

SNC is one of several companies working to develop commercial crew transportation capabilities under the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA’s CCDev effort is being led by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and supported by NASA technical experts across the agency, including NASA Langley for a variety of technical areas.

NASA also is developing the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System, a crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. Designed to be flexible for launching spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, SLS and Orion will expand human presence beyond low Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration across the solar system.

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