Dream Chaser Undergoes Testing at NASA Test Facility in Ohio

NASA and Sierra Space are making progress on the first flight of the company’s Dream Chaser spacecraft to the International Space Station. The uncrewed cargo spaceplane is planned to launch its demonstration mission in 2024 to the orbital complex as part of NASA’s commercial resupply services. Credit: Sierra Space/Shay Saldana
NASA and Sierra Space are making progress on the first flight of the company’s Dream Chaser spacecraft to the International Space Station. The uncrewed cargo spaceplane is planned to launch its demonstration mission in 2024 to the orbital complex as part of NASA’s commercial resupply services. Credit: Sierra Space/Shay Saldana

NASA and Sierra Space are preparing for the first flight of the company’s Dream Chaser spacecraft to the International Space Station. Dream Chaser and its companion cargo module, called Shooting Star, arrived at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio, for environmental testing, scheduled to start in mid-December, ahead of its first flight, scheduled for the first half of 2024.

The Neil Armstrong Test Facility, part of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, is home to multiple test facilities, including the Space Environments Complex and the In-Space Propulsion Facility, both stops for Dream Chaser. The complex is home to the Mechanical Vibration Facility, which subjects test articles to the rigorous conditions of launch.

While at Armstrong, the Dream Chaser winged spacecraft will be stacked atop its Shooting Star cargo module on the vibration table to experience vibrations like those during launch and re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.

Following vibration testing, Dream Chaser will be moved to the propulsion facility for thermal vacuum testing. Dream Chaser will be placed in a vacuum and exposed to low ambient pressures, low-background temperatures, and replicated dynamic solar heating, which simulates the environment the spacecraft will encounter during its mission. This facility is the only one capable of testing full-scale, upper stage rockets and rocket engines under simulated space conditions and conducting altitude hot fire.

After completion of testing at Armstrong, Dream Chaser will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for further launch preparations, currently scheduled for liftoff in the first half of 2024.


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2 thoughts on “Dream Chaser Undergoes Testing at NASA Test Facility in Ohio”

  1. I’m a test engineer at Intergalactic, we make thermal management systems for aircraft and spacecraft. We are adding in house testing capabilities as we continue to grow and a shaker table is #1 on our list, so vibration testing is on my mind. Just a couple of questions out of curiosity.
    How is Dream Chaser secured for the vibration testing for re-entry. During launch testing it makes sense that the vehicle is anchored to the Shooting Star module with the vibrations moving through the module up to Dream Chaser but during re-entry the vehicle will be unconstrained. Depending on where the attachment points are the vibrations will be dampened/amplified due to these added nodes. Was there structural analysis done to show natural nodal points so that the vibration characteristics of the craft are not modified? These would also be the vibratory input points to the systems structure, whereas in reality the system would see inputs distributed along leading edges and underbelly as it re-enters. Is this where acoustic testing makes more sense so the inputs are distributed along the body of Dream Chaser in a more realistic way?
    We’re excited to see things progress and move towards launch day.

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