New autonomous NASA space shuttle lands successful test flight

14 November, 2017, 01:54 | Author: Grady King
  • 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

As Geek Wire notes, Sierra Nevada landed a different contract a year ago to use the Dream Chaser as an unmanned vehicle to transfer cargo back and forth to the International Space Station.

The unmanned aircraft made a soft landing at Edwards Base last Saturday during the free flight test at the Armstrong Flight Research Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The Dream Chaser is 30 feet long, about one quarter the length of a space shuttle. The cargo-carrying spaceplane is expected to supply the ISS for NASA.

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The Dream Chaser spacecraft made a "beautiful flight and landing" during a second glide test on Saturday, according to its producer, Sierra Nevada Corporation.

The spacecraft is still in its prototype phase so any data gathered from the test will help influence the final design of Dream Chaser.

NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center said in November 11 statement that the glide flight "verified and validated the performance of the Dream Chaser in the critical final approach and landing phase of flight". Right now, two companies - SpaceX and Orbital ATK - hold contracts with NASA to periodically resupply the station through 2018.

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The glide flight, while a milestone in the company's commercial crew agreement, will support Sierra Nevada Corporation's efforts to develop a cargo version of the vehicle. The company promised to release more test flight details, images and video on Monday (Nov. 13). Sierra Nevada filed a protest, but the government's General Accounting Office upheld the decision.

Of course, Dream Chaser is not the only mini-shuttle aiming for the stars. Unlike other spacecraft - the capsules that look like the vehicles that flew in the Apollo-era - the Dream Chaser has wings and wheels that allow it to land on a runway. But past year, NASA awarded a second round of contracts, in order to cover cargo shipments to the ISS from 2019 through 2024. A first flight of the Dream Chaser Cargo System is scheduled for 2020, with a minimum of six flights through 2024 under the contract.

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