First Look: Spaceplane Stacked and Shaken at NASA Test Facility

First Look: Spaceplane Stacked and Shaken at NASA Test Facility

Nose-up and bathed in soft blue lights, Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser spaceplane and its Shooting Star cargo module cast dramatic shadows onto the walls of NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio, as members of the media got their first glimpse of the towering 55-foot-tall stack on Feb. 1.

The spaceplane and its cargo module are undergoing testing at the facility to prepare for the extreme environment of space.

“The Armstrong Test Facility is one of NASA Glenn Research Center’s most critical assets,” said Dr. Jimmy Kenyon, center director of NASA Glenn in Cleveland, during a media event where Tom Vice, chief executive officer of Sierra Space; Phil Dempsey, transportation integration manager for the International Space Station Program; and Dr. Tom Marshburn, former NASA astronaut and chief medical officer for Sierra Space, were also on hand for interviews.

Dr. Jimmy Kenyon

Center Director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland

“Here, we have some of the world’s largest and most capable simulation and test facilities to test the harsh conditions that spacecraft will experience during launch and in flight,” Kenyon said.

Using the world’s most powerful spacecraft shaker system, NASA exposed Dream Chaser and Shooting Star to vibrations like those it will experience during launch and re-entry into the atmosphere.

Next up, Dream Chaser will move to a huge, in-ground vacuum chamber that will continue to simulate the space environment Dream Chaser will encounter on its mission. The spaceplane will be put through its paces, experiencing low ambient pressures, low-background temperatures, and dynamic solar heating.

This testing marks progress toward Dream Chaser’s first uncrewed demonstration flight to the International Space Station later this year as part of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Program. On its first flight, Dream Chaser is scheduled to deliver over 7,800 pounds of cargo.

NASA’s work with commercial industry is leading to more people, science, and commercial opportunities in space for the benefit of humanity.

Tom vice

Chief Executive Officer of Sierra Space

“We collectively, NASA and Sierra Space, go to space to benefit life on Earth,” Vice said. “The most significant industrial revolution in history is underway in space. You have to kind of step back and inhale everything you’re witnessing, the magnitude of what you’re witnessing; the signs are all around us that we are now living in the orbital age.”

Top Image Credit: Sierra Space/Shay Saldana

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