Dream Chaser space plane successfully completes test flight

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft just passed a challenging approach and landing test with flying colours. It was dropped from a helicopter and flew back to a landing strip at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

This is significant for the aerospace manufacturer since its last free-flight test in 2013 resulted in minor damage when a problem with the deployment of its left landing gear caused the plane to skid off the runway.

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). The reusable craft is considered perfect for this task since it’s smoother return will ensure the preservation of precious scientific specimens on board.

Dream Chaser is aiming to deliver cargo to the ISS beginning in 2019 and will fly six cargo service missions to and from the space station until 2024.

SNC’s lifting-body spacecraft has been in development for more than a decade and is designed to deliver up to 5,500kg of pressurised and unpressurised cargo to the space station. It’s called a lifting body plane due to the lift being created by the body of the vehicle rather than the wings.

“The lifting-body design gives Dream Chaser a higher lift-to-drag ratio and allows for greater cross-range landing capability, meaning the landing zone (or places where it can land) is greatly increased,” said the company.

It also boasts the ability to conduct orbital disposal services and return pressurised cargo at less than 1.5g until coming to a gentle runway landing. The flexible aircraft can also be rapidly turned around and reused for future flights.


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