Shuttle-like Dream Chaser spacecraft makes glide test flight

15 November, 2017, 00:53 | Author: Cecelia Webb
  • Sierra Nevada Corp’s Dream Chaser lands on Edwards Air Force Base in California. Spacecraft went through preparations for flight at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. Credits NASA  Carla Thomas

Yesterday, November 12, in the US private Corporation Sierra Nevada told the public about the successful completion of the tests reusable spaceship Dream Chaser.

When the company was focused on developing a crewed version of Dream Chaser, there were plans for additional glide flights, at higher speeds and with pilots on board, to simulate abort conditions, said Steve Lindsey, vice president of Space Exploration Systems at Sierra Nevada Corporation. Photo credit: SNC website.

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.

He said the fully autonomous vehicle "flew itself from the drop to the ground through the landing". The vehicle occupied the same hanger that Nasa used before for its Space Shuttle Enterprise in the late 1970s. Enterprise also was not created to fly in space, but only for atmospheric tests.




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. "This advances our program and the Dream Chaser towards orbital flight, while meeting the final milestone for our NASA CCiCap [Commercial Crew integrated Capability] agreement and supporting milestone 5 of the CRS-2 contract". That includes thermal protection tiles, flight software, redundant navigation sensors, and guidance and control systems for reentry and landing. If it is, Sirangelo said it's unlikely this test vehicle will perform a similar flight, and will instead be placed in "flyable storage". Dream Chaser is a lifting body whose design builds on work NASA did through the HL-20 program decades ago.

The CRS2 contract with NASA is guaranteed for only six flights.

Dream Chaser looks much like a miniature version of a NASA space shuttle.

Analysis of the data collected during that flight is in progress, but Sirangelo felt confident that the vehicle performed as expected. He said, however, that Dream Chaser will be able to be launched on a variety of launch vehicles, not only Atlas V, which is due to be phased out in the early 2020s. The device was tested in free flight mode and landing.

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