Shuttle-like Dream Chaser spacecraft makes glide test flight
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE (AP) — A test version of the Dream Chaser, a reusable spacecraft that resembles a small space shuttle, made a successful free flight and landing in California after being hoisted by helicopter high over the Mojave Desert, officials of Sierra Nevada Corp. said Monday.
The flight Saturday moved the program closer to achieving unmanned cargo flights to the International Space Station and back to Earth under a NASA contract, possibly as soon as 2020.
Slung below the helicopter on a 200-foot (61-meter) tether, the full-scale atmospheric test version of the Dream Chaser was hoisted to an altitude of 12,324 feet (3,756 meters) and released.
The craft then made a completely autonomous descent and landing, rolling out about 4,200 feet on an Edwards Air Force Base runway in the high desert north of Los Angeles.
The free flight lasted 60 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 330 mph (531 kph) and touching down at the targeted spot on the runway at a speed of 191 mph (307 kph). In the middle of the flight it performed a maneuver, turning left and right and then coming back to the centerline.