back to article Don't let your dreams be dreams! Itty-bitty space shuttle to ride into orbit on a Vulcan Centaur

Wannabe space station supplier Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has selected ULA's Vulcan Centaur rocket to launch its Dream Chaser freighter in 2021. Dream Chaser is a fan favourite, being a lifting body-based spacecraft that can glide to a runway and land in a manner reminiscent of the old NASA Space Shuttles. ICYMI: @ …

  1. Randy Hudson

    Just do it!

    Enjoyed the throwback Shia LaBeouf reference!

  2. fishman

    Plenty of slop in the schedule

    Vulcan hasn't flown. And I wouldn't be surprised if it hasn't made it's first flight by the end of 2021 - the first flight of a new rocket is usually a dummy payload. So Dream Chaser could get away with not being ready by the end of 2021.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HL-20

    Strange they were planning "up to 10 astronauts". When have they ever needed that capacity?

    However, if you read between the lines, sending 10 Navy Seals to any point on the globe is rather tempting to certain governments. So I could understand some cross funding going on there.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "sending 10 Navy Seals to any point on the globe "

      With the advanced planning each launch requires? And the landing facility requirements?

      US Navy has faster ways to deploy SEALs around the globe. Leave Sci-Fi to Sci-Fi...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "sending 10 Navy Seals to any point on the globe "

        No idea if you were one of the downvoters... but there were cross fundings for the Shuttle. Like, it's actual history that they wanted military abilities for it. Even if it was never used for such.

        Thus my suggestion was for the funding only. Note it got to the research option. Which means they possibly decided to drop it, as you suggest, because (not always the fastest) but the most reliable are the other options.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: "sending 10 Navy Seals to any point on the globe "

          It is true DoD planned a military role for the Shuttle (and that's why they got the X-37 after it) - but it was in orbit, and when they still dreamed the turn-around time was very small - not to land a Shuttle in an enemy field and unload a contingent of Space Marines... these aren't exactly expendable gliders like those used on D-Day....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "sending 10 Navy Seals to any point on the globe "

            Yep. Still asking why you need 10 astronauts. Even the shuttle did what, 6? [Looks it up]. Wow, it was 11. But seems they only went up to 7.

            But a tiny version? As long as it lands in owned territory, it's still a nice "have" to have, right?

            We are talking about a time when they looked at projects like "orion", as options. So I'd not put it past them for pie in the sky thinking. :P

            1. LDS Silver badge

              "Still asking why you need 10 astronauts"

              Larger orbital outposts? Rescue missions?

              From https://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/factsheets/HL-20.html:

              "Delivery of passengers to Space Station Freedom would be the primary mission of a PLS. For the baseline space station mission, the crew size would be eight passengers (a space station crew) and two flight crew members."

              "Other potential missions defined for a PLS include the orbital rescue of stranded astronauts, priority delivery and observation missions, and missions to perform satellite servicing."

              If it had been used as a Shuttle "safety boat", ten seats would have been needed as well, given the average Shuttle crew.

              Of course ISS doesn't host more than six astronauts - projects are often far more optimistic than actual implementations.

              When the Shuttle was being designed, the DoD was interested in its capabilities to bring heavy, expensive payloads in space, on the required orbit, operate them, and bring them back for reuse - in an era when reconnaissance satellites didn't have yet hi-res CCD cameras sending images back as soon as shot, while Corona and KH9 satellites films had to be recovered and developed after being shot.

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: HL-20

      Seals from space? Only in the movies.

      It's a touch more expensive than parachutes to leave behind and contains a set of technologies you really don't want some countries to have.

      Not exactly a sneaky journey either, unscheduled rocket launch & very unsubtle arrival onto a major airport quality runway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HL-20

        Sealnado...

      2. TVU

        Re: HL-20

        "Seals from space? Only in the movies".

        More like Return of the Dynasoars (look them up).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: HL-20

      Well, you're not going to evacuate all 7,000,000,000 people from Earth by sending them up one or two at a time.

    4. jake Silver badge

      Re: HL-20

      There is a difference between capacity and seating. For example, my old F-350 pickup truck has a capacity of about four tons of (anything), but only actually seats three adults, four in a pinch.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Devil

        Re: HL-20

        Hmmm. Is this the time to make a rude joke about the weight of the average American? A ton each seems a trifle excessive...

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: HL-20

          Perhaps instead muse on when you Brits will have to start importing more full sized pickup trucks, given the rapidly increasing rate of obesity in Blighty. At least then you'd be worrying about something that is really happening around you, instead of resorting to the same old tired hyperbole to make a cheap joke at the expense of them bloody furriners.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
            Happy

            Re: HL-20

            Ah, but you set up the joke so nicely. I was almost forced to do it.

            Our problem in Blighty is that although we're getting fatter, but can't have bigger cars because our roads are too small. The downside of having built so many of our towns and cities in the age of the horse.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: HL-20

              "The downside of having built so many of our towns and cities in the age of the horse."

              IIRC some of South Africa's cities had very wide roads to allow the turning of a wagon drawn by a team of oxen.

      2. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: HL-20

        Ten on the way back sounds handy.

        If there are 6 nauts in the isis, were something to go horriby wrong up there it might be handy to be able to send up two more nauts and 2 medics and bring every body down safely

        while they fend off the Alien invasion.

    5. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: HL-20

      "Strange they were planning "up to 10 astronauts". When have they ever needed that capacity?"

      It's a bit of a chicken/egg problem. If they had the capability to easily carry ten people to/from orbit, then there would have been missions to make use of that. such as having ten people on the ISS at once, knowing that they'd have a way to get them all home in an emergency. (There's never more people on the ISS than there is capsules to bring them home).

      Assuming the life support can keep up, having more people on a mission can help, because more people will be available at any one time, and if (eg) someone became ill, there would be someone to take over for them, rather than nixing that part of the mission.

  4. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    Reminds me of a fictional craft,...

    .. from Disney's 1979 film 'The Spaceman and King Arthur'

    https://m.media-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMTljMmM3NmUtZmY3YS00YmQyLTgyMTYtNTI0MmYyYzU5ZWZkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyOTc5MDI5NjE@._V1_.jpg

    1. Mike Richards

      Re: Reminds me of a fictional craft,...

      Or Crichton's little module from 'Farscape'.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Reminds me of a fictional craft,...

        Or the one they all copied, the Bell X-1 lifting body used for testing back in the day

        1. phuzz Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: Reminds me of a fictional craft,...

          The Bell X-1 wasn't a lifting body, it had wings. (and round here people will tell you that the X-1 was a copy of the Miles M.52...)

          Maybe you're thinking of the Martin X-24?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Reminds me of a fictional craft,...

            "Maybe you're thinking of the Martin X-24?"

            Yes, I was. I knew there was an X in the name :-)

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Reminds me of a fictional craft,...

        That's because Farscape-1 was also copying NASA's HL-20 design.

        The HL-20, in turn, was inspired by NASA's earlier lifting body test aircraft, including the HL-10 and M2-F1 (read the free NASA publication "Wingless Flight, The Lifting Body Story" [SP-4220] for more on those two), and also somewhat on the Soviet BOR-4 (and the MiG 105).

        NASA researchers have been wanting to send a proper lifting body into space for years, but for long-winded reasons the shuttle ended up being closer to a regular, winged, glider than a true lifting body. The HL-20 design was then taken by Dreamchaser and used as the basis for their craft.

    2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Reminds me of a fictional craft,...

      Reminds me of the Farscape 1.

      Icon - Getting my long leather coat & Winona.

  5. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    A Grand Introduction to a NEUKlearer Chicken/Egg thing ....... and Virtualised Parallel Streams? :-)

    It's that old chicken/egg thing again, is it not?

    What comes first ...... Space Shuttle Ride Simulators or the Real Thing ‽ . For the Experience of the First Speculative in the Second Definitive Derivative.

    Surely y'all know All Great Possible Dreams are Not So Crazy as Mad Protected against Wilful Inexcusable Abuse and Rampant Rabid Misuse.

    Their Wonderful Stealth is Beautifully Provided by One's Persistent Disbelief in the Programs as are via here being Presented and invariably increasingly more likely, Recorded for Possible Future Use.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re:

      What comes first? Insanity or amanfromMars 1?

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Re:

        Good question, AC .... with any number of answers :-)

      2. KittenHuffer
        Coat

        Re: Re:

        I'm not sure who to refer you to when answering that one, Shrödinger or Heisenburg!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Re:

          Mu.

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Re: Mu and the Moving Invisible Target Conundrum

            Mu aspires to be "the real thing" as a development environment for beginner programmers taking their first steps with Python. ..... About Mu

            And what of its suitability for experienced quantum communications leapers, jake, where a this can be a that in an instant and something else completely different and empowering?

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Mu and the Moving Invisible Target Conundrum

              There is only One True Editor, in several guises ... and while it is generally referred to by a two letter name (or two) it isn't the later-day Mu.

              Regardless, my comment/reply to KittenHuffer's post was mu, and needed no editing.

              1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

                Re: Mu and the Moving Invisible Target Conundrum

                Thanks for the clarification, jake. Much appreciated here.

                And it is a crying shame that more who may disagree or misunderstand a posting here are not affording an explanation for what then is immediately ignited and capable of being fielded as a conflict.

                It suggests that they be just full of hot air and inconsequential nonsense with nothing of great importance to say/share.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: Mu and the Moving Invisible Target Conundrum

                  Back before the Eternal September we called it the blind men and the elephant syndrome.

                  And then there is the fact that some people enjoy being offended. Probably because it gives 'em something to complain about, which livens up what would otherwise be yet another drab, boring hum-drum day in their otherwise dreary existence.

                  As Emily Postnews might have said back in the early '80s, "Be slow to give offense, and even slower to take it".

                  Or, in light of the above thread, "We have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning." —Werner Heisenberg

                  1. ILLQO

                    Re: Mu and the Moving Invisible Target Conundrum

                    Congratulations on getting what feels like a coherent reply from amanfrommars.

  6. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Coat

    Chiron - Half Man, Half Horse & Famous For His Knowledge Of Medicine.

    That made him the Centaur of disease control.

  7. Chris G Silver badge

    Have I got this right?

    ULA needs a strap on to get it up if they're shooting a heavy load?

  8. Ken 16 Silver badge

    Man capable, not man rated

    Like the Buran, there's nothing to stop it carrying people but that's not it's main job so it's not worth doing the testing to validate it is safe 'enough'.

    https://www.businessinsider.com/photos-of-russian-abandoned-space-shuttles-by-ralph-mirebs-2015-6?r=US&IR=T

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Man capable, not man rated

      Buran was intended to carry cosmonauts, and was on it's way to being man-rated. Unlike the US, the USSR weren't about to stick humans in a vehicle for it's maiden flight, so it went up, and more impressively, landed, uncrewed. It's main problems really were:

      It had even less purpose than the Space Shuttle (the politburo had seen the US spending so much money on the STS, and decided that there must be a rational reason, even if they couldn't work it out, so therefore the USSR must have a shuttle as well). Dumb rockets could carry everything the Soviets needed to get into space

      It was carried by an Energia rocket, which was still in development, and very expensive.

      Which brings us to the main reason Buran failed, it was incredibly expensive, and the Soviet union broke up, so there was no more money.

  9. OFSO

    Very similar to the European Space Agency's "Hermes" project, which was dropped in the design phase as it was too small. A great deal of money was invested even so and a lot of useful research undertook.. Wonder what happened to the paperwork ? Last I heard it was to be archived in Italy.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely you mean "not half-horse, carefully-chosen-half-Spock".

  11. Jason Hindle

    Reminds me a bit of the French Hermes

    AKA a good way to send two astronauts and a ham sandwich into space.

  12. aqk
    Alien

    What about that secret unmanned shuttle that is now in orbit?

    The US air force has at least twice blasted a small shuttle - the X37B - into orbit- maybe more times.

    The first time was for a whole year- I remember seeing pictures of it landing.

    The second time it went into orbit, I lost track of its story. Is it still in orbit?

    Why can't they use this design? Is it too small for a human? Or is it just too secret?

  13. whbjr

    Taking technology for granted

    "One of the main landing gears failed to deploy... "

    If only we could have had the same landing gear used by THOUSANDS, or perhaps ZILLIONS of aircraft which land every day, across the globe, using landing gear which does not fail to deploy! Oh, but *this* landing gear has to survive high altitudes and zero gravity! The vacuum seals have to operate even after being exposed to a vacuum!

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