Milestone test shows that this reusable spacecraft can safely fly

The Dream Chaser rolls out on Runway 22L at Edwards Air Force Base California. Credit NASA

SNC brought Dream Chaser to the Armstrong Flight Research Center in January 2017 in preparation for the free-flight test.

The free flight lasted 60 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 330 miles per hour (531 kph) and touching down at the targeted spot on the runway at a speed of 191 miles per hour (307 kph).

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser looks like an airplane but flies like a spacecraft.

On November 11, commercial missions took another step forward with a successful test flight from Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser, which is due to first ferry cargo to the International Space Station around 2019.

But Saturday's first-ever successful test flight of a miniature, new-generation space shuttle was something of a coup for the Sierra Nevada Corp., which had been waiting years to fly.

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 is a space apparatus which can be used many times. "The testing will validate the aerodynamic properties, flight software and control system performance of the Dream Chaser".

Analysis of the data collected during that flight is in progress, but Sirangelo felt confident that the vehicle performed as expected.

A day after the tow test, a captive carry test was performed. In a 2014 downselect from three providers to two, Dream Chaser was not chosen. Just like the free-flight test, Dream Chaser was suspended beneath a twin-rotor helicopter and flown through a number of maneuvers to gather information. The Dream Chaser, however, which is meant to launch on top of an Atlas V rocket, glides down to Earth like a plane after reentering the atmosphere, landing horizontally on a runway.

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. But past year, NASA awarded a second round of contracts, in order to cover cargo shipments to the ISS from 2019 through 2024. "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".

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