Autonomous mini space shuttle enjoys successful first test flight
UNITED STATES: It only lasted a minute, and it flew from just 12,500 feet (3800 metres). But Sunday’s first-ever successful test flight of a miniature, newgeneration space shuttle was something of a coup for the Sierra Nevada Corp, which had been waiting years to fly.
The company is under contract from Nasa to fly its Dream Chaser spaceplane to the International Space Station by 2020.
Unlike other spacecraft - the capsules that look like the vehicles that flew in the Apollo era - the Dream Chaser has wings and wheels that allow it to land on a runway.
On Sunday, it was dropped from a helicopter over the Mojave Desert in California, and then glided to a runway at Edwards Air Force Base.
The successful flight had no passengers on board, and the vehicle flew itself instead of being controlled remotely. ‘‘It was a really good day. We had a full flight. We met all our goals. The vehicle landed safely, and there were absolutely no issues,’’ said Mark Sirangelo, the head of Sierra Nevada Corp’s Space Systems Division.
He said the fully autonomous vehicle ‘‘flew itself from the drop to the ground through the landing’’.
Along with SpaceX and Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada is under contract from Nasa for as many as six cargo flights to the ISS.
The Dream Chaser, which looks like a smaller version of the Space Shuttle, would initially be launched on an Atlas V rocket.
It is being designed to land on runways and then allow crews to access the materials flown back to Earth soon after landing.
The company is also developing a version of its shuttle that could carry as many as seven passengers to low Earth orbit.
– Washington Post
The Dream Chaser has had its first flight, after being dropped from 12,500 feet by a helicopter over the Mojave Desert.