Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser
Spacecraft builder Sierra Nevada Corporation completed a critical flight test of its Dream Chaser orbital vehicle on Saturday, moving a step closer to supplying the International Space Station.
Launched unpowered from a Chinook helicopter above the California desert, Dream Chaser flew autonomously on a planned path before landing at Edwards Air Force Base.
Dream Chaser proved "its atmospheric flight performance along with its return and landing capability," Mark Sirangelo, a vice president at SNC, said in a statement. "The Dream Chaser flight test demonstrated excellent performance of the spacecraft's aerodynamic design and the data shows that we are firmly on the path for safe, reliable orbital flight."
NASA selected Dream Chaser in January 2016 to fulfill six refueling missions to the ISS through 2024, with its first flight expected in three years. Released from 12,400 feet altitude, SNC says Dream Chaser demonstrated "highly important landing attributes" that are critical to NASA's mission.
"This spacecraft is the future and has the ability to change the way humans interact with space," SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen said.
The orbital vehicle is designed to make runway landings, much like the retired space shuttles, and has been undergoing testing at the Armstrong Flight Research Center since January.
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