Sierra Nevada Corp tests Dream Chaser spacecraft

Dream Chaser landing

The craft was tested using a free-flight method, meaning it was brought up and then released to glide down and land unmanned on a runway, which it did according to plan.

In the long-awaited test, a helicopter carried the Dream Chaser engineering test article aloft and released it at an altitude of more than 3,000 meters, allowing the vehicle to glide to a runway landing at Edwards. The reusable craft is considered flawless for this task since it's smoother return will ensure the preservation of precious scientific specimens on board.

The design of The device is based on the project of the HL-20, which in the 1990s years were developed by NASA. It's called a lifting body plane due to the lift being created by the body of the vehicle rather than the wings.

Of course, Dream Chaser is not the only mini-shuttle aiming for the stars. The flexible aircraft can also be rapidly turned around and reused for future flights. In 2016, Sierra Nevada was awarded a new contract. Right now, two companies - SpaceX and Orbital ATK - hold contracts with NASA to periodically resupply the station through 2018.


The company is planning both a manned version for astronauts and an unmanned version for cargo, both of which would be launched atop an expendable rocket. Orbital ATK's capsule - known as Cygnus - is then created to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere once it leaves the station, while SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule can survive the descent to Earth, using parachutes to land in the ocean.

This is the vehicle's first flight in four years and its first successful landing demonstration. Since then, Sierra Nevada has been modifying the Dream Chaser to just carry cargo.

The Dream Chaser last flew in 2013, but a problem with its left landing gear meant it had a hard touchdown, which caused the plane to skid off the runway and sustain minor damage.

The craft was made by the Sierra Nevada Corporation and was tested at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. Sierra Nevada plans to give more details on the test during a press conference this afternoon.

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