Published: Mon, November 13, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

Sierra Nevada Corp tests Dream Chaser spacecraft

Sierra Nevada Corp tests Dream Chaser spacecraft

The Dream Chaser is being developed to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station without a crew aboard.

Prototype spacecraft Dream Chaser has successfully completed its first glide test flight nearly two years after securing a multi-billion dollar contract from Nasa. Sierra Nevada initially designed the Dream Chaser to carry astronauts, but the company has since reworked the design to be an autonomous cargo spaceplane.

Saturday's test flight is the first of several glide and landing tests Sierra Nevada is planning with the Dream Chaser test vehicle from higher and higher altitudes. The cargo-carrying spaceplane is expected to supply the ISS for NASA. This landing seems to have gone much better, based on the pictures that Sierra Nevada released, though the company hasn't given much additional information.

Two other companies, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, will use their own spacecraft to fly delivery missions for NASA as part of the CRS-2 program. Unlike a capsule that might land in a remote area, Dream Chaser can quickly return experiments to waiting researchers.

The previous one took place in October 2013 but was marred by a landing gear failure, which caused the Dream Chaser ETA to skid off the runway. Future orbital vehicles will launch on Atlas V rockets from United Launch Alliance, and Lockheed Martin has partnered with Sierra Nevada to develop the composite structural shell of the orbital-class vehicles. A first flight of the Dream Chaser Cargo System is scheduled for 2020, with a minimum of six flights through 2024 under the contract.

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