SpaceDev banking on Dream Chaser

by Chris Bergin

In an announcement to the stock market, SpaceDev have revealed their concept for what appears to be a cross-breed of a NASA orbiter and Burt Rutan’s Space Ship One – the SpaceDev Dream Chaser.

The vehicle is a six-passenger human space transport system, based on the ten-passenger HL-20 Personnel Launch System developed by NASA Langley.

The vehicle is being designed to cater for the growing interest in space tourism – with a capability of crew access to the International Space Station (ISS), in direct competition with current efforts by NASA to design and build their CLV (Crew Launch Vehicle).
‘The design concept for the SpaceDev Dream Chaser, which is the same size but lighter than the ten-passenger NASA HL-20 vehicle, is also suitable for safe, affordable sub-orbital space tourism applications,’ noted the release. 
‘The long-term SpaceDev Dream Chaser(TM) 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(TM) system is anticipated to combine existing and proven designs and technologies.’
Plans to use the design of the X-34 now appear to have been dropped, as Space opt towards a lifting body concept that has the appearance of a ‘baby orbiter.’ 
‘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,’ said Jim Benson, SpaceDev’s founding chairman and chief executive.
‘Since then, national focus has changed to a Shuttle replacement, and we believe that our new SpaceDev Dream Chaser(TM) 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.
‘Recent studies have shown great potential for a commercial suborbital space tourism market, and we believe SpaceDev Dream Chaser(TM) is the best solution.
‘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 multi-billion dollar development projects. By aiming for safe and affordable orbital operations, we get suborbital capabilities for ‘free’.’
While the Dream Chaser will only be a crew transport, another major difference is the lack of cryogenic propellants. With the lack of foam insulation, required to keep cryogenic propellants super cold, the risk of debris strikes from foam and ice is irradicated. The power is set to be provided by a hybrid motor – along the lines of what was used on Burt Rutan’s Space Ship One.
SpaceDev hope to secure funding for their project, with the aim of manned sub-orbital test flights by 2008, and manned test flights to orbit by 2010.

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