Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Space Plane Aces Free-Flight Drop Test

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

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.

As mentioned earlier, Dream Chaser has been lifted by a helicopter and managed to fly more than 10,000 feet in altitude before being dropped from the helicopter. They're created to be used 15 or more times and have autonomous launch, flight and landing capabilities, according to Sierra Nevada Corp.

The Dream Chaser is a fairly unique vehicle compared to the other two companies' spacecraft.

The Dream Chaser is being developed to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station without a crew aboard. This involved attaching Dream Chaser to a pickup truck that would pull it some 60 miles per hour (about 95 km/h). When it would reach that speed, the Dream Chaser was released allowing its onboard systems to slow the vehicle to a stop.

A day after the tow test, a captive carry test was performed. 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. Beat me to Space X and Boeing.


The Dream Chaser last flew in 2013, but a problem with its left landing gear meant it had a hard touchdown, which caused the plane to skid off the runway and sustain minor damage.

The United States has relied on private contracts as well as the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos to get its astronauts and supplies to the ISS since the Space Shuttle was taken out of service in 2011.

Along with SpaceX and Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada is under contract from NASA for as many as six cargo flights to the station. It will sport an expandable cargo module at the rear that will feature solar panels and a docking mechanism.

Commercial crew was a follow-on to the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) or "commercial cargo" program that led to the SpaceX and Orbital ATK uncrewed systems that resupply ISS today - Falcon 9/Dragon and Antares/Cygnus. "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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