A spacecraft from Sierra Nevada Corporation completed its test flight successfully. A free-flight test was performed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. The Dream Chaser is in development, and once the spacecraft is complete, it will send cargo to the International Space Station.
The Dream Chaser test article was lifted off the ground using a Columbia Helicopters Model 234-UT Chinook. According to an SNC statement, the test went as planned. The first glide test occurred on November 11, four years after the first glide test, which resulted in the craft flipping over upon landing because the left landing gear couldn’t deploy properly.
NASA said that this latest test “verified and validated the performance of the Dream Chaser in the critical final approach and landing phase of flight, meeting expected models for a future return from the International Space Station.”
“The Dream Chaser flight test demonstrated the excellent performance of the spacecraft’s aerodynamic design and the data shows that we are firmly on the path for safe, reliable orbital flight,” Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space System business area, said in a press release published on November 13.
After being lifted by the helicopter, the Dream Chaser flew more than 10,000 feet in altitude before being dropped from the helicopter. It flew the same final approach as it would have if it were returning from the International Space Station. SNC reported that the test article consisted of orbital vehicle avionics with flight software for the first time to provide validation of the orbital vehicle’s design.
“I’m so proud of the Dream Chaser team for their continued excellence,” said SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen.
“This spacecraft is the future and has the ability to change the way humans interact with space, and I couldn’t be happier with SNC’s dedicated team and the results of the test.”
Sierra Nevada Corporation brought the Dream Chaser to the Armstrong Flight Research Center in January to prepare it for the free-flight test. The vehicle occupied the same hanger that NASA used for its Space Shuttle Enterprise in the late 1970s.
The company performed a tow test on the vehicle a little over two months before the free-flight test. Basically, the Dream Chaser was attached to a pickup truck which pulled it to about 60 mph. When it reached that speed, the Dream Chaser was released, allowing its onboard systems to slow it to a stop.
SNC expects to launch the first Dream Chaser to the International Space Station in 2020. The Dream Chaser Cargo system will launch atop an Atlas V rocket. It will be equipped with an expandable cargo module featuring a solar panel and a docking mechanism. The spacecraft is supposed to deliver more than 12,000 pounds of cargo.