The Dulles, Viginia, based Orbital Scien
ces Corp. announced on Tuesday, that it had
officially submitted a proposal to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to build a winged space vehicle for astronaut transportation to and from earth orbit once NASA’s space shuttle is retired.
The design is of the "blended lifting body" type. Its design history goes back to 2002/2003 when Orbital did a study for NASA back then. The vehicle is designed with four seats allowing room for commercial passengers.
This new vehicle would normally use the Atlas V rocket as its booster and return for a conventional landing on a runway after its mission was completed.
Lockheed Martin Corp however, is going along with a capsule sim
ilar to Apollo/Orion with parachute landing.
My personal opinion on this matter is that I hope Orbital beats the pants off of the Lochkeed Martin proposal. Does anybody remember VentureStar? I personally do not want to see our nation just turns its back to the idea of a winged spacecraft that is able to land on a regular runway.
UPDATE December 18, 2010: At the NASA Dryden space center, a 15% scale model of Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser spacecraft design was test dropped from a helicopter.
The company's full size version is based upon NASA's HL-20 lifting body. The Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Dream Chaser is designed to carry up to seven people to the ISS and back. It will be launched vertically on a Atlas V rocket and recover horizontally on conventional runways.
Using a Bell 206B3 Jet Ranger helicopter, the model was attached to a 100-foot long cable and dropped from an altitude of 14,000 feet. Landing this time was done via a parachute. The scale model was built by a team of experts from SNC and the Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU).
1. Bizjournals.com "Orbital Sciences proposes shuttle replacement" by Tucker Echols. December 15, 2010.(http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/news/2010/12/15/orbital-proposes-shuttle-replace.html).
3. Update link "Dream Chaser Model Drops in at NASA Dryden" (http://www.comspacewatch.com/news/viewsr.rss.html?pid=35563).