Sierra Nevada spacecraft completes first test flight in 4 years

Dream Chaser landing

Sierra Nevada Corp.’s prototype Dream Chaser space plane lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California after a drop test

Dream Chaser also recently gained a cargo contract with NASA to cart food, water, and scientific research to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

In previous tests this year a helicopter carried the Dream Chaser aloft but did not release it.

The company tweeted photos of the craft gliding to a landing at Edwards Air Force Base on Saturday. Unlike a capsule that might land in a remote area, Dream Chaser can quickly return experiments to waiting researchers. Sierra Nevada representatives announced on Twitter Saturday. It's an important milestone in the Dream Chaser's development, as Sierra Nevada readies the plane for spaceflight.

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Sierra Nevada Corporation confirmed that test flight was finished with success.

Two other companies, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, will use their own spacecraft to fly delivery missions for NASA as part of the CRS-2 program. Future orbital vehicles will launch on Atlas V rockets from United Launch Alliance, and Lockheed Martin has partnered with Sierra Nevada to develop the composite structural shell of the orbital-class vehicles. Under that agreement, Sierra Nevada will fly at least six cargo delivery missions for NASA by 2024, agency officials said in the November 11 statement. The vehicle flew a similar glide flight in October 2013, which the company and NASA considered successful despite a landing gear failure that caused the vehicle to skid off the runway after landing.

The spacecraft is still in its prototype phase so any data gathered from the test will help influence the final design of Dream Chaser.

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