Sierra Nevada satisfied with Dream Chaser glide test

The device was tested in free flight mode and landing. The flight occurred four years after the first glide test, which saw the otherwise-perfect flight end with the craft flipping over upon landing when the left landing gear failed to deploy.

The Dream Chaser has been in development by the Sparks, Nevada, company for more than 10 years.

Commercial crew was a follow-on to the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) or "commercial cargo" program that led to the SpaceX and Orbital ATK uncrewed systems that resupply ISS today - Falcon 9/Dragon and Antares/Cygnus.

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

Prototype spacecraft Dream Chaser has successfully completed its first glide test flight nearly two years after securing a multi-billion dollar contract from Nasa.

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The spacecraft is still in its prototype phase so any data gathered from the test will help influence the final design of Dream Chaser.

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

When the company was focused on developing a crewed version of Dream Chaser, there were plans for additional glide flights, at higher speeds and with pilots on board, to simulate abort conditions, said Steve Lindsey, vice president of Space Exploration Systems at Sierra Nevada Corporation. The vehicle occupied the same hanger that Nasa used before for its Space Shuttle Enterprise in the late 1970s. 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. "It is in our mind a signal that our program has moved another step closer to operations and orbital flight". If it is, Sirangelo said it's unlikely this test vehicle will perform a similar flight, and will instead be placed in "flyable storage". Those missions will land at Kennedy Space Center. Dream Chaser, which looks like a smaller version of the Space Shuttle, would initially be launched on an Atlas V rocket.

Sirangelo said the company is planning to build two orbital vehicles at the moment and each is designed for at least 15 flights each with a turnaround time of 60 days.

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

  • Regina Walsh