Dream Chaser® Integrated Spacecraft and Pressure Suit Design
Stroud, Kenneth J.
Jacobs, Shane E.
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The new era of commercial human spaceflight offers the opportunity to develop new technologies while applying lessons learned from the past. The Dream Chaser spacecraft and the full pressure suit proposed for use by its crew members tie the past to the present in both spacecraft and pressure suit design, in order to maximize crew safety. Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft is a state-of-the-art reusable lifting-body vehicle that traces its heritage to NASA’s HL-20 lifting body spacecraft design. Due to its design, SNC’s Dream Chaser operates similar to the space shuttle, including the ability for crewmembers to bailout of the spacecraft if an atmospheric contingency is experienced. To protect against rapid cabin depressurization during ascent and entry, as well as the low atmospheric pressure during bailout, each Dream Chaser crewmember will wear a full pressure suit, along with other integrated crew survival equipment. The suit, designed by David Clark Company Incorporated, is a light-weight pressure suit specifically designed for Dream Chaser operations, with heritage in the Contingency Hypobaric Astronaut Protective Suit (CHAPS) and the S1034 pressure suit design that is currently flown by U-2 pilots. As part of maximizing crew safety, several lessons learned from the Space Shuttle Columbia accident and subsequent Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report are incorporated into both the Dream Chaser spacecraft and pressure suit designs. These lessons learned include considerations for optimal integration of the suit, seat, survival equipment and cockpit, accommodations for extended visors-down time, and use of a conformal helmet providing significantly improved head protection. In addition, the Dream Chaser spacecraft design requires a vertical climb between the ingress hatch and the cockpit in the launch configuration, which is facilitated by pressure suit design features. Together, the integrated design and development of the Dream Chaser spacecraft and the pressure suit provide next generation human spaceflight capability and safety.