The Dream Chaser is NASA’s latest attempt in unmanned cargo flights to space

Private spaceflight company, Sierra Nevada, announced its reusable spacecraft, the Dream Chaser, completed a successful free flight and landing on a runway in California. The test was conducted at Edwards Air Force base in Southern California. The stunt was supposed to test Dream Chaser’s landing capabilities.

After being released from a helicopter, Dream Chaser made a 60-second free flight. The vehicle has been in development for more than a decade now.

Sierra Nevada previously tested another Dream Chaser prototype four years ago. However, this did not land successfully on the runway due to a landing gear problem.

Corporate Vice President in charge of the company’s Space Systems division, Mark Sirangelo emphasized the improved handling capabilities in the latest model.

“We came back and did it again with a better, stronger, more advanced vehicle, and this time we stuck the landing,” said Sirangelo “It’s a huge step forwards”.

The flight reportedly met all requirements set by the company.

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Dream Chaser ushers in a new age of unmanned spaceflight

The spacecraft is scheduled to fly to and from the International Space Station starting with 2020.

The helicopter slung the prototype on a 61-meter tether while at an altitude of over three thousand meters. Dream Chaser then made a completely unmanned descent reaching a maximum of 330 mph. It landed on the runway at a speed of 191 mph.

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SpaceX and Orbital ATK developed similar ideas, however, their models are different from the Dream Chaser when it comes to landing capabilities. ATK’s capsule, Cygnus burns in the Earth’s atmosphere after leaving the station while SpaceX’s Dragon capsule lands in the ocean using parachutes. The Dream Chaser is able to descend to Earth and land horizontally on a runway.

The company chose United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket to launch their first two Dream Chasers. They are scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2020 and 2021.

Image Source: WikipediaCommons

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