According to the latest reports, an advanced Spaceplane built for resupplying International Space Station (ISS) has pulled off a successful glide flight on the runway. On Saturday, private spaceflight company Sierra Nevada announced that its spaceplane named Dream Chaser had successfully glided and landed on a runway after being discharged from a helicopter. This was a free flight test meant to test out the vehicle’s landing capabilities.
The test was done at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California. The successful landing of Dream Chaser was another milestone for Sierra Nevada as it readies its spaceplane for the upcoming spaceflight. As part of the NASA’s Commercial Cargo program, Dream Chaser is seen as a new entrant and will be soon used to send cargo to and from the ISS.
Currently, two aerospace companies-Orbital ATK and SpaceX- hold the contract for cargo resupply to ISS. Actually, NASA had only given contract to SpaceX and Orbital ATK to periodically resupply the space station through 2018. But the space agency felt the need of more resupplies with advanced technologies. So, it issued a second round of contracts to a new private spaceflight company Sierra Nevada along with both SpaceX and orbital ATK. All the three companies are assigned to cover cargo shipments to the ISS from 2019 through 2024.
The Dream Chaser space capsule is pretty unique when compared to its rivals. SpaceX’s wingless Dragon cargo capsules are flown to ISS on the top of its Falcon 9 rockets and are relanded on Earth using Parachutes. Coming to Orbital ATK, its cargo capsule, known as Cygnus, flies atop Antares rocket and is designed to burn up in Earth’s Atmosphere once it leaves the atmosphere. But the Dream Chaser, which is meant to launch on top of an Atlas V rocket, glides down to earth and lands horizontally on a runway just like a plane. So, it neither uses a parachute for landing nor it gets burnt in the atmosphere. That is why NASA was so impressed with its unique technique of landing and handed it the cargo contract.
The recent free-flight test of Dream Chaser was the second landing test done by Sierra Nevada. Earlier in 2013, the Dream Chaser was put to the test for the first time, but the landing did not go smoothly as one of its landing gears failed, causing the space plane to crash land and then skid off the runway. But this week’s flight and landing was a pure success. The spaceplane was dropped from an altitude of little less than 12,500 feet, and it reached a top speed of 330 miles per hour during its flight of 60 seconds. After the test, Mike Sirangelo, corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada Corporation, said during a follow-up press conference that everything went well and overall their parameters in the test were met or exceeded in their minds. Sierra Nevada reported that the data gathered from this test would be further used to refine Dream Chaser’s development as it gets ready for its debut orbital flight.Tags: Dream Chaser, NASA, Sierra Nevada, SpaceX