Lockheed Martin to Provide Help to Sierra Nevada for Dream Chaser Spacecraft

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The Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser, a lift body mini-shuttle, is a contestant in NASA's commercial crew program, along with SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's CST-100, both more traditional space capsules.

Sierra Nevada, according to the Denver Post, has just signed a deal with the more venerable Lockheed Martin to make the Dream Chaser a reality.

Sierra Nevada partnership with Lockheed Martin

The two companies have inked a multimillion-dollar deal, according to the Denver Post, for Lockheed Martin to provide two crucial services that will be necessary if the Dream Chaser is ever to become reality.

NASA's Certification Products Contract

Lockheed Martin will guide Sierra Nevada through NASA's Certification Products Contract, the Denver Post reports. The contract was awarded to Sierra Nevada by the space agency in December, according to SpaceRef, and will last from January through May 2014. The contract establishes a process whereby Sierra Nevada will conduct a series of tests and analysis to help NASA certify the Dream Chaser under the commercial crew program.

Lockheed Martin to provide composite materials for the Dream Chaser

The Denver Post also reports that Lockheed Martin will provide composite materials for the manufacture of the Dream Chaser's airframe. Lockheed Martin will perform this task at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

First test free flight for Dream Chaser draws nigh

According to the Huffington Post, the current model of the Dream Chaser will soon undergo its first free flight drop test. It has already flown successfully attached to a helicopter. The series of drop test will take place at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California. The model of the Dream Chaser that will be built with Lockheed Martin's help will fly later with a pilot on board in a series of free flight tests before being launched on a orbital mission.

Dream Chaser launches like a rocket, lands like an aircraft

According to NASA, the Dream Chaser is a lift body spacecraft based on an old space agency design for a vehicle called the HL-20. It would be launched into low Earth orbit on top of an Atlas 5, deliver a crew of astronauts to the International Space Station or to some other destination like a commercial space station, and then return to Earth. Like the now retired space shuttle, it would enter the Earth's atmosphere and land on a runway. It would have a better cross range and low G force stress that the capsule designs being advanced by SpaceX and Boeing.

Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.

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