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Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Space Plane Aces Free-Flight Drop Test

15 November 2017

During this testing period, Sierra Nevada and NASA aren't actually working with a Dream Chaser spacecraft-instead, they're working with a fixed-wing version.

The orbital vehicle is created to make runway landings, much like the retired space shuttles, and has been undergoing testing at the Armstrong Flight Research Center since January.

"The lifting-body design gives Dream Chaser a higher lift-to-drag ratio and allows for greater cross-range landing capability, meaning the landing zone (or places where it can land) is greatly increased", said the company.

According to Nasa, the flight test "helped advance the vehicle under Nasa's Commercial Crew Program space act agreement, as well as helped prepare the vehicle for service under Nasa's Commercial Resupply Services 2 program".

Prototype spacecraft Dream Chaser has successfully completed its first glide test flight nearly two years after securing a multi-billion dollar contract from Nasa.

SNC's Dream Chaser was one of three competitors for NASA's "commercial crew" program, vying for NASA contracts to develop systems to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) through public-private partnerships (PPPs).

There are two variants of the craft, one for crewed missions and one for uncrewed missions.

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In previous tests in 2017, a helicopter carried the Dream Chaser aloft but did not release it.

Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) revealed its spacecraft underwent a free-flight test, launching from a helicopter and landing at the Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert. The vehicle occupied the same hanger that Nasa used before for its Space Shuttle Enterprise in the late 1970s.

This is the vehicle's first flight in four years and its first successful landing demonstration.

Dream Chaser is aiming to deliver cargo to the ISS beginning in 2019 and will fly six cargo service missions to and from the space station until 2024.

Analysis of the data collected during that flight is in progress, but Sirangelo felt confident that the vehicle performed as expected.

SNC hopes to fly the first Dream Chaser to the ISS as early as 2020.

The spacecraft will be launched on top of Atlas V rockets built by the United Launch Alliance and on its return to Earth it will land on the runway.

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Space Plane Aces Free-Flight Drop Test