Sierra Nevada satisfied with Dream Chaser glide test


The Dream Chaser is a fairly unique vehicle compared to the other two companies' spacecraft.

The free flight lasted 60 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 330 miles per hour (531 kph) and touching down at the targeted spot on the runway at a speed of 191 miles per hour (307 kph).

Dream Chaser was lifted by a helicopter and flown more than 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) in altitude before being dropped.

In total, the spacecraft is expect to be able to deliver more than 12,000 pounds (5,000 kilograms) of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS.

The Dream Chaser spacecraft made a "beautiful flight and landing" during a second glide test on Saturday, according to its producer, Sierra Nevada Corporation.

The spacecraft is being developed to send cargo to the International Space Station. NASA funded several companies, including SNC, through a succession of development activities in the first half of the decade, one of which was the Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities (CCiCAP) program. NASA said the 2017 free-flight test helped prepare the spacecraft for service under the program in which Dream Chaser, along with SpaceX's Dragon and Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo ships, will service the ISS through at least 2024. The vehicle occupied the same hanger that Nasa used before for its Space Shuttle Enterprise in the late 1970s.

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The uncrewed Dream Chaser made a smooth landing at Edwards Air Force Base during the free-flight test at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, NASA officials said in a statement.

Steve Lindsey, a former NASA astronaut who flew on five space shuttle missions, is now SNC's Vice President for space exploration systems. He stressed that the vehicle's flight was completely autonomous, not like a UAV where humans are controlling it. Sirangelo noted that the flight profile included commands for the vehicle to turn left and then right, then return to the centerline during descent.

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

It is 30 feet (9 meters) long, about one quarter the length of a space shuttle and is a type of craft known as a "lifting body" in which aerodynamic lift is generated by its shape rather than traditional wings.

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