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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