Contracted Soviet-derived spaceplane Dream Chaser makes successful glide test

Contracted Soviet-derived spaceplane Dream Chaser makes successful glide test

Sierra Nevada Corporation's privately built Dream Chaser space plane aced a critical test Saturday (Nov. 11) during a successful free-flight over California's Mojave Desert.

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 testing showcased the Dream Chaser's aerodynamic properties as well as flight software and control system performance.

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.

Sierra Nevada Corporation said the test was a success and pledged to give more details on Monday. But in 2014, NASA didn't pick the Dream Chaser to do crewed flights to the ISS, going with SpaceX and Boeing's proposed vehicles instead. It is about 30 feet long (9 meters) and capable of hauling up to 12,125 lbs.

Dream Chaser also recently gained a cargo contract with NASA to cart food, water, and scientific research to and from the International Space Station (ISS). 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. But previous year, NASA awarded a second round of contracts, in order to cover cargo shipments to the ISS from 2019 through 2024.

SNC is one of the three private companies, which include Oribtal ATK and SpaceX, selected by the U.S. space agency to transport supplies to the International Space Station for the next eight years in a deal potentially worth 14 billion USA dollars (£10bn).

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