Sierra Nevada completes Dream Chaser preliminary design review

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Sierra Nevada has completed the preliminary design review (PDR) of the Dream Chaser spacecraft, a crucial design milestone for the vehicle.

"There are a lot of PDRs, and this was the full system, so this is pretty important for us," says Mark Sirangelo, vice president and head of space systems at Sierra Nevada. "The vehicle is now going to be outfitted for everything that we need to do to do the autonomous drop tests, which are scheduled for third quarter of this year."

Passing PDR will earn the company $12.5 million, and marks the 13th milestone Sierra Nevada has passed under the second commercial crew development (CCDev2) contract. CCDev2 contracts are intended to stimulate development of a reusable spacecraft for shuttling astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Three other companies - Boeing, Blue Origin and SpaceX - were selected for CCDev2.

Selectees for third and final round of development contracts, called commercial crew integrated capability (CCiCap), will be announced in August 2012. The contract will reportedly be limited to two full awardees and one partial award.

Timing of the next major design milestone, the critical design review, will depend "on what NASA does with its next round, but we are anticipating completing it when in the first phase of the next NASA programme," says Sirangelo.

Dream Chaser has recently completed a captive-carry flight test, slung beneath a Sikorsky S-64 helicopter, the first time the wheels have left the ground. Further captive-carry tests will be carried out in Mojave, California.

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