SpaceDev Announces Space Program

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SpaceDev, a California company that has provided components to Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne, has started its own project to develop a reusable, piloted, suborbital spaceship. SpaceDev is not aiming for the X Prize, but says it is looking at a long-term program that could be scaled up to transport passengers to and from low earth orbit, including the International Space Station. The "SpaceDev Dream Chaser" would take off vertically and glide back to earth for a horizontal runway landing. "This project is one small step for SpaceDev, but could evolve into one giant leap for affordable, commercial human space flight," said CEO Jim Benson in a news release on Monday. Benson told Space.com the Dream Chaser could make its maiden flight by 2008 if it is fully funded. The project is currently a partially funded effort, he said.

The suborbital SpaceDev Dream Chaser is derived from an existing X-Plane concept and will have an altitude goal of about 100 miles. It will be powered by a single, high-performance hybrid rocket motor that is under parallel development by SpaceDev for the SpaceDev Streaker, a family of small, expendable launch vehicles designed to deliver small satellites to low earth orbit. The Dream Chaser will use motor technology being developed for the Streaker booster stage, the most powerful motor in the Streaker family. That motor will produce approximately 100,000 pounds of thrust, about six times the thrust of the SpaceShipOne motor. SpaceDev's non-explosive hybrid rocket motors use synthetic rubber as the fuel and nitrous oxide for the oxidizer to make the rubber burn. SpaceDev said its hybrid rocket motors are nontoxic and do not detonate like solid or liquid rocket motors. The company will be working with NASA Ames Research Center on the propulsion system and other aspects of the project.