WASHINGTON– NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is entering into a space act agreement with Sierra Nevada Corp. Space Systems of Louisville, Colo., to provide key wind tunnel testing of a new spacecraft designed to transport crew and cargo to and from the International Space Station.Marshall will perform wind tunnel tests for Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser orbital crew vehicle, a spacecraft that looks like a small space shuttle. The tests will simulate speeds ranging from Mach .2, or 152 mph at sea level, to Mach 5, or 3,811 mph at sea level, to provide Sierra Nevada with aerodynamic data about how the vehicle reacts at varying speeds and atmospheric conditions. Marshall will provide engineering support and data processing throughout the test series. The agreement could lead to joint development, testing and operations of advanced space systems — including innovative design and fabrication techniques.
“Helping our commercial partners be successful is a top priority, and we are pleased to be working with Sierra Nevada on Dream Chaser,” said Teresa Vanhooser, manager of the Flight Programs and Partnerships Office at Marshall. “Our experienced workforce and unique wind tunnel offers our partners a proven, quick, and affordable way to test their Dream Chaser vehicle, and will aid in the development of the capability to transport astronauts to the International Space Station.”
Marshall’s 14-square-foot wind tunnel is capable of conducting tests at subsonic, transonic and supersonic wind speeds. Transonic speeds are close to Mach 1, the speed of sound, or 760 mph at sea level, and the facility can achieve wind speeds as great as Mach 5.
“We are extremely pleased to be adding the Marshall Space Flight Center to our Dream Chaser Orbital spacecraft team, which now includes seven NASA centers. Marshall has been at the forefront of many significant aerospace programs, and we are fortunate to have their terrific people and valuable technical capabilities assisting us in the development of our vehicle. Our partnership will enable us to reach low-Earth orbit sooner and safer. We look forward to a long and mutually rewarding relationship and to expanding our presence in Alabama,” said Mark Sirangelo, head of Sierra Nevada Space Systems.
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