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Dream Chaser Spacecraft To Conduct Missions To The ISS

Dream Chaser Spacecraft To Conduct Missions To The ISS

Dream Chaser, which is about a quarter of the size of NASA's old shuttles, was added by NASA past year as a fourth privately-developed space ferry option.

In previous tests in 2017, a helicopter carried the Dream Chaser aloft but did not release it.

This is significant for the aerospace manufacturer since its last free-flight test in 2013 resulted in minor damage when a problem with the deployment of its left landing gear caused the plane to skid off the runway.

Below, photos and renderings of the new spacecraft. The sleek but stubby black and white craft rolled to a stop at the same site where NASA's full-sized shuttles sometimes landed, looking very much like a "baby brother" to the retired orbiters. Sierra Nevada's six-mission contract calls for Dream Chaser to start delivering cargo to the space station in 2019.

The flight was the second free flight of the Dream Chaser. They're created to be used 15 or more times and have autonomous launch, flight and landing capabilities, according to Sierra Nevada Corp.

The glide flight, while a milestone in the company's commercial crew agreement, will support Sierra Nevada Corporation's efforts to develop a cargo version of the vehicle. It is about 30 feet long (9 meters) and capable of hauling up to 12,125 lbs.

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.

This successful test, though, should keep Dream Chaser on track for a debut spaceflight within the next two years. It will lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 booster from Cape Canaveral, and will touch down on the runway at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "The testing will validate the aerodynamic properties, flight software and control system performance of the Dream Chaser".

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