Dream Chaser Spacecraft To Conduct Missions To The ISS

The Dream Chaser rolls out on Runway 22L at Edwards Air Force Base California. Credit NASA

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.

Earlier this year, officials at the Armstrong center, where Dream Chaser is being tested, said the space plane would to be dropped from an altitude of 12,500 feet (3,810 meters) by a Columbia 234-UT helicopter for this test. The company promised to release more test flight details, images and video on Monday (Nov. 13). On November 11, commercial missions took another step forward with a successful test flight from Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser, which is due to first ferry cargo to the International Space Station around 2019.

The Dream Chaser is 30 feet long, about one quarter the length of a space shuttle.

Dream Chaser will go through its Critical Design Review (CDR) next year. "If we have all the data that we needed from the test, and if NASA concludes that with us, the vehicle will not need any further flight tests". The Nevada-based spaceflight company has even suggested using the craft to carry astronauts for a fix and refurbishing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope to keep the space telescope operational through the 2020s.

If NASA accepts the results of the flight test, that would mark the final milestone for a $227.5 million contract awarded to SNC in 2012 as part of the space agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability program, or CCICap.

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.

Sirangelo compared the tests with this vehicle to those flown by NASA in 1977 of the space shuttle orbiter Enterprise. Dream Chaser is a lifting body whose design builds on work NASA did through the HL-20 program decades ago.

Originally, Sierra Nevada had hoped its Dream Chaser would carry astronauts, and not just cargo, to the ISS. The Dream Chaser spacecraft developed specifically for bringing supplied to the ISS is in the testing stages and passed a test for approach and landing on Saturday.

The free-flight test came just over two months after the company performed a tow test on the vehicle on August 29.

Both versions are created to be sent into orbit atop a rocket such as United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 or the European Space Agency's Ariane 5, and glide back to Earth for a runway landing.

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