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Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Space Plane Aces Free-Flight Drop Test
13 November 2017, 08:53 | Justin Tyler
The Dream Chaser rolls out on Runway 22L at Edwards Air Force Base California. Credit NASA
Dream Chaser looks a lot like a miniature version of a NASA space shuttle.
The Dream Chaser spacecraft underwent a critical test during a successful free flight over the Mojave desert in California, the United States, the Sierra Nevada Corporation reported today. Lifted by CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter (Columbia 234-U) which took off from Runway 22L at Edwards Air Force Base and delivered to altitude of 3810 m, Dream Chaser was dropped and performed glide flight and automatic landing.
NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center said in November 11 statement that the glide flight "verified and validated the performance of the Dream Chaser in the critical final approach and landing phase of flight". Sierra Nevada representatives announced on Twitter Saturday.
The Dream Chaser last flew in 2013, but a problem with its left landing gear meant it had a hard touchdown, which caused the plane to skid off the runway and sustain minor damage. Unlike a capsule that might land in a remote area, Dream Chaser can quickly return experiments to waiting researchers. NASA has awarded the company a Commercial Resupply Services contract to provide ISS resupply flights from 2019 to 2024. 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.
It's been in development by the Sparks, Nevada, company for more than 10 years. "The testing will validate the aerodynamic properties, flight software and control system performance of the Dream Chaser".
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