A NASA Commercial Crew Program update highlights one of the clear cases where progress in NewSpace suborbital space tourism is helping the orbital Commercial Crew program. Update below
Virgin Galactic used a hybrid engine built by Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) Space Systems last Monday for the first powered test flight of the SpaceShipTwo, which is being built for short, suborbital missions. The engine burns a combination of industrial rubber and nitrous oxide, which is designed to allow the hybrid system to be throttled and restarted. Dropped from a much larger aircraft before firing its engine for 16 seconds, SpaceShipTwo reached Mach 1.2 and 55,000 feet during the short test flight. A similar version of this engine will provide the main thrust for the Dream Chaser spacecraft SNC is creating in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Although the Virgin Galactic spacecraft will make only short, suborbital visits to space, the Dream Chaser is on track to fly into orbit, potentially carrying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station around the middle of the decade.