February 16, the American edition of The Washington Post, published an article by Christian Davenport entitled “The most intriguing spacecraft of America has incredible roots from the Cold War times”. The author of this publication remembered history project Dream Chaser, as well as considered earlier events that accompanied the program of space exploration. As you can see from the title, K. Davenport came to interesting conclusions.
The author of The Washington Post begins his article with a reminder of past events. 1982 year. The Russians are obviously plotting something. The Soviet ship in the Indian Ocean is struggling to lift something from the water. What exactly the sailors get is impossible to determine. Australian reconnaissance aircraft managed to detect the strange actions of the Soviet ship, as well as take a few pictures of this operation.
Australian intelligence officers handed the photographs to their American counterparts from the CIA. Those, in turn, attracted to the work of NASA specialists. Only the joint work of several departments allowed to establish the truth and find out exactly what the Soviet ship in the Indian Ocean was doing. As it turned out, Soviet sailors were lifting the BOR-4 apparatus out of the water. It was an unmanned aerial vehicle designed to test thermal protection systems. According to NASA, this device was created at one of the early stages of the development of the Soviet reusable spacecraft.
K. Davenport believes that 1982 photographs of the year could have been lost and forgotten by historians. However, in mid-January, the aerospace agency announced a collaboration with several private organizations in their new projects. Among others, support for NASA will receive the Dream Chaser spacecraft. Based on the characteristic appearance, the author calls this product "a snub-nosed apparatus originating from a forgotten Soviet space plane" (a snub-nosed craft derived from the lost Soviet space plane).
Getting support from NASA is a great achievement for Sierra Nevada, and also opens a new chapter in the history of a small and interesting spacecraft. The resumption of the Dream Chaser project with the support of NASA should now be the impetus for the resumption of work on reusable space technology. Several private companies will receive additional funding from the aerospace agency, which will allow them to continue working. The result of this should be the creation of a full-fledged means of delivery into orbit of cargo or astronauts. K. Davenport recalls that new ships should deliver people into orbit at the end of this decade.
Having completed the description of the current successes of the private space industry firms, the author of The Washington Post returns to history. Having studied the available images of the Soviet apparatus BOR-4, the American specialists developed their own draft design of such equipment. Analysis of this development has shown that such a device must have very high characteristics and show itself well during operation. As NASA historians later wrote, the Soviet project opened the eyes of American scientists.
For a long time, the specialists of the US Air Force worked on a project of a similar technology capable of performing multiple flights into space. Over time, NASA joined the similar work with the HL-20 project, which was based on several photographs of the Soviet apparatus. It was assumed that the main task of such a “space plane” would be the emergency evacuation of astronauts from space stations. However, the HL-20 project faced a lack of funding and other problems of a different nature, as a result of which it was closed.
Until a certain time, the HL-20 project remained forgotten, and the built model of this device remained out of work. The situation changed only in the middle of the two thousandth. At that time, Marc Sirangelo, the head of one of the private companies in the space industry, who later became part of the Sierra Nevada Corporation, worked on the concept of a promising spacecraft. Learning about the project HL-20, M. Sirangelo made it possible to see the prototype. The only built sample was idle in the corner of one of the NASA hangars under a tarpaulin and its appearance clearly said that this product had long been forgotten. The sample was suspended for about ten years: they were going to send it to a landfill, but it never came to that.
Despite the poor state of the sample, the head of the space industry company became interested in him and continued to work in this direction. A new project by Sierra Nevada was proposed to base on existing developments. The new project was named Dream Chaser and was proposed by NASA. After the completion of the Space Shuttle spacecraft operation, the development of a new project continued with a double force, including with the support of the aerospace agency. So, NASA has invested about 360 million dollars in Dream Chaser.
K. Davenport recalls that state financial support has already allowed several private companies to continue developing new space technology projects and get them off the ground. For example, SpaceX and Blue Origin with state support create and build launch vehicles that can take off and land several times, thereby reducing operating costs.
A joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the United Launch Alliance (ULA), is developing a returnable launch vehicle. This means that after a stage has been reset all its units will fall down and the engines will be able to descend by parachute. At a certain height they will be caught by special helicopters with special hooks that will be able to safely return expensive and complex products to the ground.
At the end of February, Virgin Galactic plans to introduce to the public a new version of the SpaceShipTwo project. An apparatus of this type is proposed to be launched into space not from the earth, but from the air. A special carrier aircraft will lift the spacecraft with a rocket unit to a height of 50 thousand feet, where its independent flight will begin. Sit SpaceShipTwo will be able to normal runways.
The Dream Chaser project incorporates some of the core ideas used in new reusable space technology projects. A spacecraft of this type is proposed to be launched using a special booster with the corresponding mounts on the head. Returning to Earth and he will sit down like the old Shuttle. After that, the device will again be able to fly.
A few years ago, the author recalls, there were some doubts about the possibility of solving the tasks. The device Dream Chaser has a relatively small size and in size inferior decommissioned Space Shuttle. The possibility of replacing the latter with the first could be a reason for doubt. After the announcement of the requirements for the creation of a manned spacecraft for the transport of astronauts, these suspicions were confirmed. According to the results of the analysis of the projects, two projects dropped out of the competition, including Dream Chaser. The company-developer is hard on this news.
In 2014, the aerospace agency launched a new competition, the goal of which was now to create a reusable vehicle for the transport of goods. In just a few months, before January 2015, the existing project should be reworked and a new version of the spacecraft presented.
This time, Sierra Nevada Corporation not only coped with the task, but was able to win the NASA competition. Sierra Nevada will take part in the new program, to which SpaceX and Orbital ATK companies are also involved. In the foreseeable future, they will have to complete the creation of their space trucks, as well as demonstrate their capabilities in practice. Approximately at the end of 2019, the promising technology should deliver foodstuffs, other supplies and scientific equipment to the ISS. In the near future, the management of the company-developer of the Dream Chaser project intends not only to develop the cargo version of the vehicle, but also to offer NASA a new system for transporting people.
Referring to the Ars Technica portal, K. Davenport reports that the authors of the Dream Chaser project showed interest not only in HL-20, but also in its Soviet prototype BOR-4. Back in 2005, M. Sirangelo went to Russia and met with experts who participated in the development of this system. The American designer told Russian colleagues that their design continues to live, which greatly surprised them. The head of the new project promised that the first flight of the Dream Chaser would take on board a list of engineers who participated in its creation, as well as those who developed BOR-4 and HL-20.
M. Sirangelo in one of his interviews said that a few years ago one of the developers of the BOR-4 project passed away. His daughter wrote a letter to the American designer, which stated that for the former Soviet engineer it was very important that a list of all the project participants was on board the ship.
The publication of The Washington Post “The most intriguing spacecraft” is very interesting because it reveals the details of the new project, known only to specialists and historians of the space industry. Nevertheless, the facts and the complex history of the new development contained in it may be of interest to the general public. Such a twisted plot, which combines several projects from the two countries, could be the basis for a good book.
Indeed, the modern project of the reusable spacecraft Dream Chaser dates back to the earlier HL-20, which, in turn, was an American attempt to study the features of the Soviet BOR-4 system. Recall, from the end of the sixties to the mid-eighties, the Soviet industry developed and tested several BOR vehicles (“Unmanned Orbital Rocket-Plane”), which were large-scale mock-ups of the Spiral aircraft. Until a certain time, foreign intelligence services did not have detailed data on the BOR project, but the situation changed in the summer of the 1982 year.
3 June 1982 of the year at the Kapustin Yar test site was the launch of the launch vehicle "Kosmos-3M" with a payload in the form of the apparatus "Cosmos-1374", which was a product of BOR-4. The spacecraft performed a X-NUMX suborbital flight around the earth, then splashed down in the Indian Ocean near the Cocos Islands. Soviet ships with special equipment found a splashing apparatus and lifted it out of the water. During this operation, they were noticed by the Australian anti-submarine aircraft P-1,25, which resulted in the appearance of the first photographs of the new Soviet design.
Subsequently, the study of the resulting photographic materials led to the emergence of the HL-20 project, on the basis of which, in the middle of the two thousandth, a new Dream Chaser device was developed. The Soviet project "Spiral", in turn, was not implemented in its original form, but contributed to the appearance of the spacecraft "Buran".
Such a "continuity of generations" is of particular interest, and is also a reason for criticism. In fact, the ideas that emerged as far back as the sixties of the last century in the Soviet Union can only now reach full practical application, but are being implemented by US experts. Here one could ask why Soviet developments have not been applied in their own country, but after some changes they are used by foreign companies? It is unlikely that the answer to this question will be simple and pleasant.
With all the disadvantages of this situation, it should be noted that the management of Sierra Nevada respects the creators of previous projects that have become the basis for the new Dream Chaser. Thus, in the course of the first full-fledged space flight, it is planned to take on board a list of all the people who participated in the creation of the projects underlying the Dream Chaser, including the Soviet specialists, in appreciation.
The article "The most unlikely cold war origins of America's most intriguing spacecraft":