Sierra Nevada Corp. says its Dream Chaser spacecraft had a successful free-flight drop test in the Mojave Desert during the weekend. It glided towards the Edwards Air Force Base in California and successfully landed.
"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.
The engineering test article (ETA) was lifted by a helicopter sky-crane and released from an altitude of over 3,000 meters, Space News reported. Both SpaceX and Orbital ATK developed wingless cargo capsules that launch to the station on top of the companies' rockets.
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Dream Chaser looks much like a miniature version of a NASA space shuttle. The company promised to release more test flight details, images and video on Monday (Nov. 13). The cargo-carrying spaceplane is expected to supply the ISS for NASA. Sierra Nevada initially designed the Dream Chaser to carry astronauts, but the company has since reworked the design to be an autonomous cargo spaceplane. Future orbital vehicles will launch on Atlas V rockets from United Launch Alliance, and Lockheed Martin has partnered with Sierra Nevada to develop the composite structural shell of the orbital-class vehicles.
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 testing will validate the aerodynamic properties, flight software and control system performance of the Dream Chaser".