Science Sunday (On a Monday): Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser/Thoughts on its Losing Proposal

Fun Fact: I am one of the few people who doesn’t LOVE Fall.

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I’m sorry. But I really don’t like fall.

Fall has some upsides:

– Return of Football and Hockey

– Hoodies

– Pretty Leaves

This is what happens when the bears lose their game that week.

This is what happens when the Bears lose their game that week.

And some pretty steep downsides:

– Allergies

– Can’t wear hoodies to work

– It gets cold outside

– Never-ending colds

This is about 1/4 of the tissues I went through over this weekend.

This is about 1/4 of the tissues I went through over this weekend.

So the point of all this fall talk is I’ve had a cold for almost four weeks and I’m really trying to get rid of it without seeing a doctor. And THAT  is why I’m posting my Sunday Science post on a Monday.

Anyway, back to SCIENCE!

So NASA recently selected two programs, Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft and SpaceX’s Dragon V2 capsule to be the next human space flight providers. The spacecraft for both companies will fly to the ISS and need to be completed by 2017.

CST-100-V009-Freeflyer-Landscape

Boeing CST-100 Capsule

SpaceX Dragon Capsule

SpaceX Dragon Capsule

However, the company Sierra Nevada Corp.’s (not the beer, it’s an aerospace company) proposal, the Dream Chaser, was rejected by NASA. They have now issued a formal protest to review NASA’s decision and has continued to market the Dream Chaser as an alternative solution.

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser, the little rocket in the middle.

Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, the little rocket in the middle.

The result is that the funded research for the winning proposals has been delayed until NASA gives a decision to the Government Accountability Office (who they made the complaint too) about how they want to address Sierra Nevada’s formal protest.

I have mixed feelings on this. Losing a large program like this can really hurt a company, especially a startup like Sierra Nevada who dedicates most of its resources to the Dream Chaser.

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However, The US really needs to have manned spaceflight back. Apparently, it costs $70 million a seat for any U.S. astronaut to fly on the Russian Soyez. Not only is that a drain on resources, but I have always thought canceling the U.S. Shuttle program was a mistake. Yes it saved us money, but by shutting down the program, we lost the experience of constantly sending people into space. (It’s been three years since the shuttle retired and the new programs won’t be up and running for about another three years).

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Here’s a look at the future. Something to be positive about.

So I’m not a fan of the delay in funding for the current capsules. I want us back in space ASAP (especially since relations are strained with Russia because of that whole invading other countries thing.)

But if Sierra Nevada’s proposal IS cheaper than Boeing’s (which is part of why they are submitting the protest) and still capable of accomplishing manned flight then I do understand their protest. Bigger companies like Boeing have worked closely with NASA in the past and probably have more influence then startups like Sierra Nevada which might lead to some bias when NASA made their decision. BUT if space is going continue being privatized (i.e. Like human spaceflight to the ISS) then NASA needs to be open to working with new companies in the future. And that means working with more startups than just SpaceX.

(Even if SpaceX is the only company in the US with launching capabilities)

All in All, it will be interesting to see what happens in the future.

Sources:

Inspiration for this post from Aviation Week & Space Technology, 10/6/2014 issue (page 13)

Some information from: http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/190282-nasa-awards-6-8-billion-to-boeing-and-spacex-bringing-spaceflight-back-to-the-usa

Some pictures from:

http://jalopnik.com/sore-loser-puts-spacex-and-boeing-spaceship-development-1642942332

[I know I said this last week, but not having to put formal citations in my blog posts is nice. In school, we followed AIAA format which I almost looked up when adding my references for this post. Then realized I didn’t have to since no one is grading this and got really excited.]

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