Sierra Nevada Corporation ( SNC ) has won NASA approval to begin full-scale production of its Dream Chaser cargo spacecraft scheduled to make its first flight in about two years. As Sierra Nevada Corporation prepares its Dream Chaser cargo vehicle for a first launch on an Atlas 5 in late 2020, the company expects to make a decision by the end of this year on the rocket that will launch later missions.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program is of prime importance to the US Space Agency. It must allow the United States of America to regain its independent capabilities for manned space flight. Since 2011, the year of the end of the space shuttle program, the United States of America has been using Russian capabilities to send Americans into space. The other two vehicles, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, are dedicated to serving the international space station. Notably, because the space shuttle served as a transport for the ISS, something needed to replace it. However, NASA had to prepare the future. From there, three companies will continue to receive funding from the US Space Agency: Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada.
This is easily understandable because Boeing absorbed in 1996 some of the companies that had worked on the Apollo program. The mission will provide cargo resupply to the International Space Station under the Commercial Resupply Services Contract 2 ( CRS2 ). NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann, along with Boeing’s company astronaut Christopher Ferguson, will fly on the BoeingStarliner test flight.
The company has developed a vertical launch vehicle ( New Shepard, after the first American astronaut in space, Alan Shepard ) that can reach the 100 km altitude used to define where “space” begins. Since the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet in 2011, U. S. astronauts have been traveling to the ISS via Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
With the Space Shuttle program now retired, NASA does not have a vehicle to put Americans into space. SpaceX’s first operational flight to the space station will also be Glover’s first flight to space. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program ( CCP ) has seen two private firms develop new spacecraft to transport astronauts to low-Earth orbit.
Two companies – Boeing and SpaceX – are developing commercial crew vehicles to carry astronauts to the ISS. Not only will the manned test flights be the first time astronauts fly to the space station aboard commercial spacecraft, but they will also be the first launch of “American astronauts on American-made spacecraft from American soil” since NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011, the space agency said.
“The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight”, Mark Geyer, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston said in a statement.
China’s space program has benefited from cooperation with Russia and European nations, although it was excluded from the 420-ton International Space Station, mainly due to U. S. legislation barring such cooperation amid concerns over its strong military connections. NASA has set Jan. 7 as the date for the launch of the first commercial crew test flight, an uncrewed SpaceX Dragon spacecraft that will start a series of high-stakes missions over the next year.
A SpaceX executive said Oct. 3 that the company’s first commercial crew test flight could be delayed until early 2019 because of paperwork issues. That is in large part due to the unfortunate ( as far as the Soviet Space program was concerned ) timing of the fall of the USSR. Once it arrives, a trio of astronauts will assist with docking the Dragon cargo ship. The Dragon cargo spacecraft will return to Earth in early 2019, following an approximately five-week stay on the ISS.
Image Credit: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich