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Dream Chaser Space Plane Takes Flight at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center

Dream Chaser takes flight over NASA Dryden Desert. Credit: Carla Thomas/NASA

NASA partner Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) of Louisville, Colo., successfully completed a captive-carry test of the firm’s Dream Chaser spacecraft today at the agency’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif.

It’s another milestone achieved under the Commercial Crew Development 2 (CCDev2) agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Today’s two-hour test involved an Erickson Air-Crane helicopter, picking up a test version of the Dream Chaser flight vehicle and flying it a distance of three miles over a dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base.

Maximum altitude reached was roughly 12,400 feet.

The spacecraft followed the projected path it will fly during future approach and landing tests at Dryden. Dream Chaser’s flight computer, along with its guidance, navigation and control systems were tested. The landing gear and nose skid also were deployed during flight.

“Today is the first time we have flown a fully functional Dream Chaser spacecraft, and we are very pleased with the results,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems.

Taxi/tow-testing

The captive-carry test is just one in a series of tests completed at Dryden.

To date, the Dream Chaser team has completed ground taxi- and tow-tests, evaluated the performance of the main landing gear and completed a flight test readiness review.

All systems have been verified and the Dream Chaser flight vehicle will undergo final preparations for the upcoming approach-and-landing test scheduled for fall 2013.

SNC is one of three companies funded under NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative to develop a next-generation crew transportation vehicle.

Dream Chaser is the only reusable, lifting body vehicle with runway landing capability.

American-made

“It’s great to see real American-made hardware taking flight right here in the U.S.,” said Ed Mango, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) manager. “This is just the start of an exciting flight test campaign for SNC’s Dream Chaser at Dryden.”

SNCs CCDev2 Space Act Agreement with NASA is set to culminate with an upcoming approach-and-landing free-flight test at Dryden.

SNC also is on track to complete all 12 of its CCiCap milestones by the summer of 2014.

All of NASA’s industry partners, including SNC, continue to meet their established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities, according to a NASA press statement that was issued following today’s Dream Chaser test.

By Leonard David

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