The Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology
(DART) spacecraft, recently completed design certification
review for the Orbital Space Plane (OSP) program. The OSP is
a NASA initiative to develop a crew rescue and transfer
vehicle for the International Space Station.

DART is a space flight demonstrator designed to test
technologies required for the OSP to locate and rendezvous
with the Station. The DART is designed for autonomous
operations. DART is controlled by computers, and it does not
have a pilot. DART is NASA’s first completely computer
controlled, rendezvous capable spacecraft.

The design certification review is a lengthy technical
analysis to verify the vehicle design with regard to safety,
performance and functional requirements. The review evaluates
the results of the project’s planning and analysis throughout
manufacturing, integration, and testing. The review is
conducted when the vehicle design and drawings are complete.

“The review is a key accomplishment for the DART team,” said
Jim Snoddy, DART program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space
Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “The team is pressing ahead
to ready the vehicle for a 2004 launch. DART’s demonstration
of autonomous rendezvous technologies will be key for the
development of the OSP and future reusable launch vehicles,”
Snoddy said.

Developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., the
DART will be launched on a Pegasus rocket from an L-1011 jet
aircraft. At approximately 40,000 feet over the Pacific
Ocean, the Pegasus will be released with the DART spacecraft.

Once the DART vehicle is launched, some of the hardware and
software tested will enable it to travel from a parking orbit
around the Earth to rendezvous, or maneuver close to, a
target satellite in space. When DART reaches the satellite,
it will perform several close proximity operations. The
entire 24-hour mission will be performed without a human

The DART is the first of three flight-testing demonstrators.
Other demonstrators for the OSP program include the X-37
flight demonstrator developed by Boeing Expendable Launch
Systems of Huntington Beach, Calif., and the launch pad abort
demonstrator developed by Lockheed Martin Corporation of

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