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Dream Chaser Readies, Gets Set For Flight Testing

The Dream Chaser space plane atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Image Credit: SNC

The Dream Chaser space plane atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Image Credit: SNC

It was surely one of those moments where NASA could hardly wait to tear off the shrink wrap. Sierra Nevada Corp.’s privately constructed Dream Chaser spacecraft engineering test article arrived at the Dryden Flight Research Center last week — wrapped in plastic for shipping protection — ahead of some flight and runway tests in the next few months.

“Tests at Dryden will include tow, captive-carry and free-flight tests of the Dream Chaser. A truck will tow the craft down a runway to validate performance of the nose strut, brakes and tires,” NASA stated.

“The captive-carry flights will further examine the loads it will encounter during flight as it is carried by an Erickson Skycrane helicopter. The free flight later this year will test Dream Chaser’s aerodynamics through landing.”

The ultimate goal is to get the United States bringing its own astronauts into space again.

A Sierra Nevada employee removes plastic wrapping from Dream Chaser after it arrives at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in southern California. Credit: NASA

A Sierra Nevada employee removes plastic wrapping from Dream Chaser after it arrives at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in southern California. Credit: NASA

Sierra Nevada, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and the Boeing Co. are all receiving NASA funding under its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative that is intended to restart flights from American soil into low-Earth orbit.

For Sierra Nevada, the company aims to launch its mini shuttle aboard an Atlas V rocket and then, like the shuttle, come back to Earth on a runway. SpaceX and Boeing are taking a different path — making spacecraft capable of launching on the Falcon 9 and Atlas V rockets (respectively) and then coming home under a parachute.

There’s still some questions about when the program will start, though. In media reports, NASA administrator Charles Bolden has said funding threats for NASA’s 2014 request are imperiling the current commercial crew target of 2017.

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and three others recently took part in approach and landing simulations of the Dream Chaser at Langley Research Center in Hampton. Check out the video below.

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Aqua4U May 22, 2013, 6:56 PM

    This one feels really good.. I like reusable shuttles.. keyword reusable.

    • shootist MP May 22, 2013, 8:14 PM

      What amounts to a reusable (after a complete retrofit and overhaul) capsule.

      God and Mr. Heinlein wants Single Stage To Orbit.

  • shootist MP May 22, 2013, 8:12 PM

    Blimey! It’s the X-20 Dynasoar!

  • Olaf2 May 22, 2013, 9:23 PM

    I love it, but that cockpit has only room for 3 midgets.

  • Anthony Lanni May 23, 2013, 9:09 PM

    Looks like Farscape 1.

    • Ray Sanders May 24, 2013, 8:58 PM

      Farscape 1 was modeled off the same craft Dream Chaser is based on. ;-)

  • Richard Stevens May 24, 2013, 10:41 AM

    Didn’t I see Steve Austin (The Six Million Dollar Man) CRASH this thing in the intro to every episode?…LOL!

  • Chelsea Richards May 28, 2013, 12:21 PM

    Makes more sense, the last shuttle was more similar to the wright brothers a year in the wake of figuring out how to fly being charged to assemble a transport airplane for the army…a major studying bend however not by any means commonsense.
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