Shuttle-like spacecraft makes glide test flights in California

  • Shuttle-like spacecraft makes glide test flights in California

Shuttle-like spacecraft makes glide test flights in California

The stunt, done at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, is known as a free-flight test and is meant to test out the vehicle's landing capabilities.

Executives with Sierra Nevada Corporation said November 13 they believed the recent glide flight of a Dream Chaser test article was successful and they won't need to fly that vehicle again.

SNC released a video of the test and held a media teleconference this afternoon.

Although Sierra Nevada did not receive a contract from NASA to develop a crew vehicle, the company is doing research and design work to eventually build a crewed version of the Dream Chaser following cargo flights.

Dream Chaser looks much like a miniature version of a NASA space shuttle.

Along with SpaceX and Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada is under contract from NASA for as many as six cargo flights to the station.

There are two variants of the craft, one for crewed missions and one for uncrewed missions. But previous year, NASA awarded a second round of contracts, in order to cover cargo shipments to the ISS from 2019 through 2024. If the company sticks to its schedule, a space-worthy version of the Dream Chaser could start making deliveries in 2020.

Officials were confident that they had all the data needed from the flight but the vehicle would be capable of making another drop test if needed, said Sirangelo, who likened it to the shuttle Enterprise, which was used for test flights in the atmosphere before the other shuttles actually went into orbit. Dream Chaser also can land in many locations, not only at NASA facilities.

SNC also has an agreement with the United Nations to fly global payloads into orbit and back on the Dream Chaser.

Originally, Sierra Nevada had hoped its Dream Chaser would carry astronauts, and not just cargo, to the ISS. NASA is "the first client", but SNC has direct or indirect agreements with over 20 space agencies and United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs, he added.

"I'm so proud of the Dream Chaser team for their continued excellence", said SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen in a statement. During a tow test, a pick-up truck drags the spacecraft up to 60 miles per hour, then releases it and lets the vehicle stop itself.

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.