Author Topic: SpaceDev unveils new concept for Dream Chaser  (Read 3992 times)

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SpaceDev unveils new concept for Dream Chaser
« on: December 05, 2005, 04:28:58 pm »
SpaceDev unveils new concept for Dream Chaser
By ELIZABETH MALLOY, The Daily Transcript
Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Poway-based SpaceDev Inc. (OTC: SPDV.OB, News) announced Wednesday that it has a new concept for the SpaceDev Dream Chaser vehicle, a six-passenger human space transport system that could be used for space tourism.
SpaceDev was asked to create a new model after a NASA review, and the most recent design is based on the 10-passenger HL-20 Personnel Launch System developed by NASA Langley.
Company founding chairman and CEO Jim Benson said he believes the Dream Chaser can meet the needs of the space tourism market and NASA's needs for routine, safe and affordable crew access to the International Space Station. Benson said Dream Chaser will be much faster and far less expensive to develop than a new crew launch vehicle proposed by large aerospace companies.
"When our focus was on supporting the development of suborbital space tourism two years ago, SpaceDev engineers selected the NASA X-34 vehicle design, which was good for suborbital," Benson said in a written statement. "Since then, national focus has changed to a Shuttle replacement, and we believe that our new SpaceDev Dream Chaser vehicle concept is ideal for both suborbital and orbital applications. However, funding is needed if we are going to be able to pursue this exciting new concept."
The design concept for the SpaceDev Dream Chaser, which is the same size but lighter than the 10-passenger NASA HL-20 vehicle, is also suitable for safe, affordable suborbital space tourism applications. The long-term design plan includes a scaled-up version of SpaceDev's non-explosive, rubber-burning hybrid rocket motors. SpaceDev's proprietary hybrid rocket motor technology successfully powered Paul Allen's SpaceShipOne on its historic X Prize winning flights to space last year. To lower risk and cost, the SpaceDev Dream Chaser system is anticipated to combine existing and proven designs and technologies, according to a company statement.
In 2004, SpaceDev signed a Space Act agreement with NASA Ames Research Center to explore various designs for safe, affordable suborbital and orbital human space flight. SpaceDev's initial in-house study analyzed and compared various higher-performance, hybrid-based propulsion modules and passenger vehicle designs.
Detailed, comparative launch trajectory and re-entry analyses were performed in conjunction with the NASA Ames thermal protection team to evaluate the performance requirements for the propulsion modules. The analyses also defined a thermal-protection system that would provide the cost, performance and safety necessary for routine passenger flights to low orbit and back.
"Recent studies have shown great potential for a commercial suborbital space tourism market, and we believe SpaceDev Dream Chaser is the best solution," Benson said. "NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has stated a desire to purchase crew and cargo services from the private sector, and we believe that we can provide safer and less expensive human transport to low earth orbit and to the Space Station than current multibillion-dollar development projects. By aiming for safe and affordable orbital operations, we get suborbital capabilities for 'free'."
The studies Benson alluded to include one conducted last year by market research company Futron in Bethesda, Md., which said by the year 2021, space tourism could be a $1 billion industry.
Benson said his company is currently looking for funding for the Dream Chaser projects, which could cost about $20 million.
Subject to the availability of adequate funding, sources for which have not yet been identified, the initial SpaceDev Dream Chaser development plan includes milestones for multiple manned suborbital test flights by 2008, and manned test flights to orbit by 2010. SpaceDev believes that its corporate culture and proven track record of rapidly and successfully developing innovative space technologies could provide the right environment in which the company could design and develop a complete human space flight system for a fraction of the cost of traditional Shuttle replacement programs.
A predecessor to the NASA HL-20 design reached orbit and re-entered safely. The SpaceDev Dream Chaser uses the same outer mold line, or shape, as the HL-20 Personnel Launch System. However, it would fly six passengers instead of the HL-20's 10 passengers, thus saving weight, which may improve handling. SpaceDev personnel flew an HL-20 simulation in the Vertical Motion Simulator at NASA Ames and found that landing the SpaceDev Dream Chaser may be very similar to landing the Shuttle.
The suborbital SpaceDev Dream Chaser is envisioned to use internal hybrid rocket motors and is designed to launch vertically from a simple launch pad at any commercial spaceport. The orbital version of Dream Chaser is proposed to launch on the side of three large hybrid boosters. Unlike the Shuttle, the orbital Dream Chaser system is not anticipated to use cryogenic propellants. Therefore, it is anticipated that no foam insulation and no ice will hit the SpaceDev Dream Chaser vehicle.
SpaceDev selection criteria included basing its human space transport system on existing technology, the HL-20, and on scaled-up hybrid rocket motors. SpaceDev believes this combination should save time and money, and could result in a safe and affordable vehicle.
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