SpaceDev has nearly completed a small, NASA funded preliminary study that defines a safe, affordable launch system for transportation of six passengers between Earth and low earth orbits.
The launch system propulsion modules would be scaled-up versions of SpaceDev's non-explosive hybrid rocket motors.
SpaceDev's proprietary hybrid rocket motor technology successfully powered SpaceShipOne on its history making flights to space. The SpaceDev Dream Chaser space transportation system would be based on a combination of existing and proven technologies and designs.
"These results are very exciting and we believe even more strongly that SpaceDev can quickly develop a safe and affordable space transportation system based on existing propulsion technologies and vehicle designs," said Jim Benson, SpaceDev's founding chairman and CEO.
"By combining existing technologies and designs in a unique and innovative manner, we believe we can reduce cost, risk and time to market for commercially viable human space transport."
Last September, SpaceDev announced it had signed a Space Act agreement with NASA Ames Research Center to explore various designs for safe, affordable sub-orbital and orbital human space flight. SpaceDev's initial study analyzed and compared various higher performance hybrid-based propulsion modules and passenger vehicle designs.
Detailed, comparative launch trajectory and re-entry analyses were performed in conjunction with the NASA Ames thermal protection team in order to evaluate the performance requirements for the propulsion modules, and to define a thermal protection system design that would provide the cost, performance and safety necessary for routine passenger flights to low orbit and back.
This preliminary study resulted in the conceptual design of a six passenger vehicle combined with a set of hybrid propulsion modules that burn rubber and laughing gas, as in SpaceShipOne, that together could meet the needs of the quickly emerging commercial space tourism market.
NASA's need for routine, safe and affordable access to the International Space Station and its proposed Crew Exploration Vehicle, and other possible, future government and commercial low Earth orbit destinations could be incorporated into this project.
The resulting study development plan includes milestones for multiple manned sub-orbital test flights by 2008, and manned test flights to orbit by 2010.
SpaceDev believes that its corporate culture of rapidly and successfully developing innovative space technologies would provide the right environment in which SpaceDev could design and develop a complete human space flight system for a fraction of what the large aerospace companies are expected to charge NASA.
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