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15 November 2017, 12:57 | Kristen Gross
Dream Chaser space plane successfully completes test flight
Orbital flights will be made by a space-capable version of the Dream Chaser that will be launched atop a booster rocket.
A spacecraft from Siera Nevada Corporation completed its test flight successfully.
Saturday's free-flight test "verified and validated the performance of the Dream Chaser in the critical final approach and landing phase of flight, meeting expected models for a future return from the International Space Station", Armstrong officials said, adding that more tests will likely follow.
Slung below the helicopter on a 200-foot (61-meter) tether, the full-scale atmospheric test version of the Dream Chaser was hoisted to an altitude of 12,324 feet (3,756 meters) and released.
The spacecraft is being developed to send cargo to the International Space Station.
Sirangelo compared the tests with this vehicle to those flown by NASA in 1977 of the space shuttle orbiter Enterprise.
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. "It is in our mind a signal that our program has moved another step closer to operations and orbital flight".
Steve Lindsey, a former NASA astronaut who flew on five space shuttle missions, is now SNC's Vice President for space exploration systems.
This is the vehicle's first flight in four years and its first successful landing demonstration. Dream Chaser is a lifting body whose design builds on work NASA did through the HL-20 program decades ago.
The company performed a tow test on the vehicle a little bit over two months before the free-flight test.
"The Dream Chaser flight test demonstrated excellent performance of the spacecraft's aerodynamic design and the data shows that we are firmly on the path for safe, reliable orbital flight", Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC's Space System business area, said in a November 13 press release.
SNC hopes to fly the first Dream Chaser to the ISS as early as 2020.
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