Dream Chaser passes a big milestone with a successful glide test landing

Dream Chaser passes a big milestone with a successful glide test landing

Dream Chaser passes a big milestone with a successful glide test landing

If NASA agrees, the very next flight of the Dream Chaser might be a return from orbit two or three years from now at the end of a mission taking cargo to and from the space station. The craft was tested using a free-flight method, meaning it was brought up and then released to glide down and land unmanned on a runway, which it did according to plan.

Dream Chaser looks much like a miniature version of a NASA space shuttle. But a year ago, NASA awarded a second round of contracts, in order to cover cargo shipments to the ISS from 2019 through 2024. The Dream Chaser spacecraft developed specifically for bringing supplied to the ISS is in the testing stages and passed a test for approach and landing on Saturday. Sierra Nevada representatives announced on Twitter Saturday.

SNC is one of the three private companies, which include Oribtal ATK and SpaceX, selected by the United States space agency to transport supplies to the International Space Station for the next eight years in a deal potentially worth 14 billion U.S. dollars (£10bn). 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.

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The Dream Chaser is an autonomous, self-flying spacecraft, and this iteration will not carry any people. Boeing, Orbital ATK, and SpaceX have also designed or flown spacecraft, but Sierra Nevada's spaceplane stands out in obvious contrast to the other companies' capsule designs. The first one, back in 2013, didn't go all that smoothly: the vehicle's landing gears failed, causing the spaceplane to crash land and then skid off the runway.

Sierra Nevada Corporation said the test was a success and pledged to give more details on Monday. The Dream Chaser from Sierra Nevada offers more reliable landings than the other two now offer.

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