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  [Discuss] SNC Dream Chaser: first ALT free-flight

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Author Topic:   [Discuss] SNC Dream Chaser: first ALT free-flight
Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-26-2013 07:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Editor's note: In an effort to keep the topic Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser: first ALT free-flight focused on status updates, reader's feedback and opinions are directed to this thread.

Please use this topic to discuss Sierra Nevada Corp.'s first free-flight approach and landing test with its Dream Chaser spacecraft.

SkyMan1958
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posted 10-26-2013 07:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Are there any videos of the flight and landing? Does anyone know how bad the damage is?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-26-2013 07:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No imagery or other details have been released as of yet.

NASASpaceflight.com reported that the vehicle flipped over, sustaining damage, but neither SNC or NASA has confirmed.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-26-2013 10:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Per NASA Dryden in response to my inquiry, all photos and videos related to the test are not being released at this time due to the pending investigation.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-29-2013 08:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sierra Nevada Corp. video of the drop test (cuts off before anomaly):

There is a media telecon at 10:30 a.m. CDT today, when more details may become available.

328KF
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posted 10-29-2013 10:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space.com has somewhat of an update on the condition of the test vehicle:
As for damage, Sirangelo said that the space plane's pressure vessel — which would house the crew cabin — was not damaged, with onboard computers still working even after the skid to a full stop.

"The crew compartment was completely intact," and pilots would have walked away from the landing incident, Sirangelo said. "We found out how tough the vehicle really was. Everything inside the vehicle is completely the way it was," in pre-drop condition, he added.

A mishap investigation team is being formed to look into the problem, Sirangelo said.

"Unofficially, it looks like the gear door didn't open properly ... so the gear couldn't come down all the way."

The Dream Chaser "got beat up a bit," Sirangelo said, but came to rest on its normal horizontal position on its main landing skids. "It's not in pieces. It's going to be flyable again."

dabolton
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posted 10-29-2013 12:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Other then the volatile fuels exploding, was this an indication of what failed gear would have done to a shuttle?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-29-2013 12:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
...the vehicle flipped over
SNC's Mark Sirangelo said today that the vehicle skidded off the runway and came to rest on its landing gear, upright. He said they are still reviewing the footage, as a lot of a dust was kicked up when the vehicle left the runway, but avoided saying the craft flipped or rolled over.

With regards to the vehicle's condition:

"The core structure, all of the flight controls, the rudders, the ailerons, all of those are all still attached, still working and are still part of the vehicle," Sirangelo said. "What we did lose was some of the protective coating shell off of the vehicle and some minor damage to the composites and wheel structure."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-29-2013 12:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dabolton:
Other then the volatile fuels exploding, was this an indication of what failed gear would have done to a shuttle?
The shuttle was such a different bird in terms of size, mass, shape and onboard systems that I think it would be difficult to draw any conclusions from Dream Chaser as to how an orbiter in a similar situation would behave.

Jim Behling
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posted 10-29-2013 02:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dabolton:
Other then the volatile fuels exploding, was this an indication of what failed gear would have done to a shuttle?

The orbiter wings would have broken off. The forward and aft fuselage would have separated from the payload bay. Any large payloads would have broken loose.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-29-2013 02:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jim, what scenario are you describing? Per Sirangelo, Dream Chaser landed and rolled down the runway for a period of time on its right main and nose gear before tipping onto its left side, skidding off the runway and then settling back onto its gear to stop.

If the same occurred to the space shuttle, I don't see why both wings would break off...

Jay Chladek
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posted 10-30-2013 02:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One thing about a shuttle is if a gear didn't deploy, it had a backup "blow down" system to drop a stuck gear. So if the crew had enough time to initiate that procedure, it probably still would have touched down on the mains. Only problem is unlike what fictional movies might show, once a shuttle drops its gear, they can't retract once again as hydraulics for gear retraction weren't included, just extension.

Other than that, one might figure a commander at the controls would have tried his best to hold the bird off the failed gear side as any other airplane pilot might do until the speed bleeds off as he still has a rudder, and control of the elevons. Granted with a shuttle, speed would likely bleed off somewhat quick, but as to what would happen when the wing touches down... nobody can say with certainty as it never happened in over 130 successful landings.

The flight of Dream Chaser looked impressive for how clean it looked. And all things considered, even if the vehicle had done a flip, I can think of worse things that could have happened to it. Just ask Bruce Peterson, who survived the M2-F2 crash (unfortunately deceased now, but not from a crash landing). Both Bruce and the M2-F2 spent time getting patched up before flying again. The craft was reborn as the M2-F3 and Peterson himself while he lost an eye also would go on to fly again. Besides, failure can be just as much of a learning experience as success. So for the next flight, SNC will likely add a secondary gear deploy system if the primary one doesn't work. Or they will check over what happened and take steps to help ensure such a scenario wouldn't happen again.

SkyMan1958
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posted 10-30-2013 09:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is a reason you do testing. You learn how to make things work properly.

My one concern about all this is that under CCDev the Dream Chaser was the least funded of the three potential systems. Given the political underpinnings of CCDev (e.g. the talk by various politicians of focusing our money on one single system), I am concerned that this could cause the Dream Chaser to be dropped entirely from being publicly subsidized.

Space Shuttle Endeavour
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posted 10-31-2013 04:07 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Are the public or press allowed to watch these ALT tests in person like Space Shuttle Enterprise in 1979?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-31-2013 04:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The public and press were not invited to the first drop test.

Prior to that test, there was some talk about the press being invited to Dryden for the second drop test, though now that's uncertain (for a number reasons, not the least of which being the uncertainty if there is going to be another autonomous drop test).

I suspect the situation may be different when SNC advances to piloted flight tests.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 12-17-2013 07:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
...successfully completed all milestones under NASA's Commercial Crew Development 2 (CCDev2) phase.
And still no news about what caused the vehicle to slew off the runway during the first free flight. The video coverage remains "censored."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-17-2013 07:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For NASA's purposes, as the landing gear was not part of the objectives of the first free flight and were not even of the design that will be used for returning from space, their performance was about as consequential as the fuzzy dice hanging from the dashboard.

p51
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posted 12-17-2013 01:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Having worked on some government test projects (mostly weapons with the Army), I have seen requirements get immediately dropped when they're not met and only then called irrelevant. I'm not saying that happened here, as I don't know, but it sounds awfully familiar to me...

That said, if the landing gear isn't to be used on real space missions, how the heck does the thing get on the ground in one piece?

cycleroadie
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posted 12-17-2013 01:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cycleroadie   Click Here to Email cycleroadie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The test article used some landing gear recycled from a U.S. Air Force's F-5E Tiger fighter jet, not the gear that will be used in the actual spacecraft.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-17-2013 01:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To put any conspiratorial thoughts aside, even before the free flight, both NASA and SNC spoke about the gear not being part of the test.

The space-worthy craft will have landing gear, just not of the design used for this first test. The purpose of this free flight was to verify the Dream Chaser itself was airworthy, confirming computer models and the captive flights that preceded it.

Jay Chladek
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posted 12-19-2013 11:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cycleroadie:
The test article used some landing gear recycled from a U.S. Air Force's F-5E Tiger fighter jet, not the gear that will be used in the actual spacecraft.

Interesting coincidence as the original NASA and Air Force lifting bodies (M2-F2/3, HL-10 and the X-24s) utilized off the shelf the main gear from the T-38 Talon, which the F-5 series is derived from.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-20-2014 08:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Photos (shared by a reader) of the Dream Chaser leaving Dryden Flight Research Center for Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Colorado facilities to be repaired and modified for crewed drop tests.

Jay Chladek
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posted 01-28-2014 02:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The main structure looks symetrical to me where the wings have been removed. Its hard to tell, but there might be some scraping damage on the left lower side, although things look about as rough on the right. It looks to me like the vehicle didn't flip over anyway otherwise I would expect the top of it to not look as clean.

To borrow a phrase from a certain television program from my childhood...

"They can rebuild it, they have the technology".

All times are CT (US)

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