Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Space Plane Aces Free-Flight Drop Test

Dream Chaser successfully completes glide flight

The unmanned craft is created to launch atop a rocket and shuttle cargo and supplies to the International Space Station, and then return to land on a runway with experiments and samples from the space station. Ten years into development, the spacecraft completed a successful free-flight drop test in the Mojave Desert in November 2017.

On Saturday, private spaceflight company Sierra Nevada announced that its Dream Chaser spaceplane had successfully glided and landed on a runway after being released from a helicopter.

Two other companies, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, will use their own spacecraft to fly delivery missions for NASA as part of the CRS-2 program.

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The glide flight, while a milestone in the company's commercial crew agreement, will support Sierra Nevada Corporation's efforts to develop a cargo version of the vehicle. Unlike a capsule that might land in a remote area, Dream Chaser can quickly return experiments to waiting researchers. (5,500 kilograms) of cargo to the International Space Station. The company says it will release more information about the test Monday afternoon.

The spacecraft will be launched on top of Atlas V rockets built by the United Launch Alliance and on its return to Earth it will land on the runway. The first one, back in 2013, didn't go all that smoothly: the vehicle's landing gears failed, causing the spaceplane to crash land and then skid off the runway. A first flight of the Dream Chaser Cargo System is scheduled for 2020, with a minimum of six flights through 2024 under the contract.

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