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Free flight success for Dream Chaser
Dream Chaser. © NASA

Free flight success for Dream Chaser

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has completed a successful second atmospheric Free-Flight test of its Dream Chaser spacecraft, four years after the vehicle's maiden flight.

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has completed a successful atmospheric free-flight test of its Dream Chaser spacecraft, four years after the vehicle's maiden flight. The full-scale Dream Chaser test vehicle was lifted by a Columbia Helicopters Model 234-UT Chinook helicopter on 11th November and released at an altitude of 12,400ft (3,800m).

The vehicle flew a pre-planned one-minute flight path ending with an autonomous landing on Runway 22L at Edwards Air Force Base, California. It was the second free-flight test for the Dream Chaser, following its first flight in October 2013, which was marred by a landing gear deployment failure resulting in a crash landing.

The Dream Chaser is a reusable vehicle designed to provide transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit. It is the only commercial, lifting-body vehicle capable of a runway landing. It will be able to transport 5,500kg of cargo to the ISS, returning with almost 2,000kg of cargo.

The first orbital vehicle is scheduled to go to the International Space Station as soon as 2020 for at least six missions as part of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract (CRS2). CRS2 contracts have also been awarded to Orbital ATK and SpaceX.

According to SNC, the test verified and validated the performance of the Dream Chaser spacecraft in the final approach and landing phase of flight, modeling a successful return from the space station. The test included orbital vehicle avionics and flight software for the first time.

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