Aviation Week reveals that Dream Chaser missed out on new NASA commercial crew funding over schedule concerns

by | Oct 16, 2014 | Commercial human spaceflight, NASA, Seradata News, Technology | 0 comments

The industry magazine and web news channel, Aviation Week and Space Technology, has disclosed that the Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) bid to obtain NASA Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CctCap) funding lost out to Boeing and SpaceX because of concerns over schedule delays.  An internal NASA document signed by NASA Associate Administrator, William Gerstenmaier, notes that the Dream Chaser was dropped because of his concerns that the design had the “lowest level of maturity”, with significantly more “technical work and critical design decisions” ahead resulting in increased “schedule uncertainty”.

A late-September protest over the decision by SNC to the US Government Accounting Office (GAO) temporarily caused all commercial crew capsule work to cease at Boeing and SpaceX.  A decision on the protest is due in January next year. However, NASA quickly ordered Boeing and SpaceX to restart, stating that national interests and schedule concerns meant that the work had to continue.

SNC has asked the US Court of Federal Claims to prevent this work from carrying on until the protest has been dealt with.  However, the court declined to do this.

Comment by David Todd:  This column has long noted that as a more sophisticated aerodynamic vehicle, Sierra Nevada Corp’s Dream Chaser, would be the last of the commercial crew competitors to become a working spacecraft. In this regard, Gerstenmaier is correct inhis assessment.  However, his decision to drop Dream Chaser altogether is a mistake, as its lifting body “mini-shuttle” is much the best long term design.  It its better in terms of probable operational cost, low ‘g’ re-entry performance, landing safety, and cross-range capability.

As such, it would have been more logical for NASA to have chosen one of the “low schedule risk” capsule designs as the “insurance” (our choice would have been Boeing’s CST-100) to pair with the slower-to-develop, but ultimately better, Dream Chaser. Instead Gerstenmaier chose to fund both the Boeing CST-100 capsule and the new manned version of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule which, by the way, may take longer to develop than expected, given its new, high risk, rocket landing technique.

Gerstenmaier is retiring soon, but it will be NASA and the rest of the space community that will have to live for years with the effects of one of his last decisions in office.  And a short-sighted and wrong one at that.

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned Seradata database. Trusted by over 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, Seradata is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to https://www.seradata.com/product/

Related Articles




nasaspacexecoreviewsissesaArianespacevideochinaFalcon 9v1.2FT Block 525virgin galacticULAfalcon 9RoscosmosevaDGAspacewalkaviation weekaressoyuzIGTInternational Space StationRocket LabBeidouawardsBlue OriginspaceStarlinkSatellite broadcastingrussiamoonAirbus DSboeingISROCargo Return VehiclemarsblogresearchOneWebspaceshiptwojaxaorionmarsimpactdelayhyperbolaEutelsatdemocratrocketlunarhypertextobamagoogle lunar prizelaunchVegaSESbarack obamaconstellationtourismnorthfiguresthales alenia spacespaceflightIntelsatnode 2fundedRaymond Lygo2009Lockheed MartinExpress MD-2Elon MuskAtlas Vromess2dassault aviationaviationLucy2008wk2sstlukradiomissilesuborbitaldocking portexplorationAriane 5 ECAVirgin OrbittestinternetLong March 2D/2sts-122Ariane 5Northrop GrummanSLSChina Manned Space EngineeringElectronflightspace tourism2010cotsnewspapermissile defensegalileospaceportExpress AMU 1Long March 4Cbuildspace stationaltairsoyuz 2-1aProton Minternational astronautical congressshuttlespace shuttleEuropean Space AgencyLauncherOneCosmosIntelsat 23scaled compositesnew yorkrulesAriane 6hanleybudgetatvVietnamshenzhoucongressMojaveboldenLong March 2COrbital ATKInmarsatcnesnew shepardiaclunar landerGuiana Space CenterkscApollolawsSpace Systems/LoralUK Space AgencyLong March 4BKuaizhou 1AILSprotonUS Air ForceTalulah RileydarpaElectron KSFalcon 9v1.2 Block 5Vega CeuAstriumSkylonpicturebaseusaastronautdragonlanderfiveeventTelesatNorth KoreaSSLAprilSNC50thinterviewLong MarchSea LaunchfalconWednesdaycustomerlinkatlantissuccessor

Stay Informed with Seradata

Stay informed on the latest news, insights, and more from Seradata by signing up for our newsletter.