Saturday's test flight is the first of several glide and landing tests Sierra Nevada is planning with the Dream Chaser test vehicle from higher and higher altitudes. The flight was a final funded milestone in the Space Act Agreement that Sierra Nevada Corporation has with NASA as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability effort. But previous year, NASA awarded a second round of contracts, in order to cover cargo shipments to the ISS from 2019 through 2024. Both SpaceX and Orbital ATK developed wingless cargo capsules that launch to the station on top of the companies' rockets.
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). Sierra Nevada initially designed the Dream Chaser to carry astronauts, but the company has since reworked the design to be an autonomous cargo spaceplane. Orbital ATK's capsule - known as Cygnus - is then created to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere once it leaves the station, while SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule can survive the descent to Earth, using parachutes to land in the ocean. The spacecraft will launch on Atlas V rockets built by the United Launch Alliance and make runway landings.
11 that its Dream Chaser test article successfully performed a glide flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The company says it will release more information about the test Monday afternoon.
The flight was the second free flight of the Dream Chaser.
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.