The first steps of the CIRA Scirocco Plasma Wind Tunnel test for Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) have been successfully completed and will continue over the forthcoming months. The US company entrusted with the development program of the Dream Chaser, the spacecraft selected by NASA to transport supplies to the International Space Station, within the context of the second Commercial Resupply Services contract (CRS-2).
The purpose of the tests will be to check the resistance of the innovative materials coating the Dream Chaser to both high temperatures and high pressures, to protect it during the critical phase re-entering the Earth's atmosphere. The extremely complex and recently completed test was carried out mainly for calibration purposes: a material model underwent increasing levels of thermo-fluid dynamic load through the hypersonic flow generated by Scirocco so as to define the exact system working conditions, deemed necessary to reach the four temperatures on the models requested by the customer throughout the forthcoming endurance tests.
The current test campaign will represent an important step towards the development of the Dream Chaser, the first mission of which, in its cargo version, is scheduled for 2021.