Dream Chaser Prepares For Flight After Crucial Ground Tests

Another kind of commercial spacecraft is almost ready to take flight, its backers say.

Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser recently finished four low- and high-speed ground tests at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., the same spot where the shuttle was put through its paces in early tests of its program. Several shuttle flights also landed at Dryden.

The Dream Chaser tow-and-release tests, which took place at speeds ranging from 10 to 60 miles per hour (16 to 96 kilometers per hour), examined items such as the flight computer, how the guidance performed, steering parameters and the flight surfaces.

“Watching Dream Chaser undergo tow testing on the same runway where we landed several space shuttle orbiters brings a great amount of pride to our Dream Chaser team,” stated Steve Lindsey, SNC’s Space Systems senior director of programs, who is also a former NASA astronaut.

“We are another step closer to restoring America’s capability to return U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station.”

The next step will be an approach and landing test, which should take place sometime in the third quarter of 2013.

SNC is one of three companies receiving money from NASA under the agency’s commercial crew program, whose goal is to move astronaut launches back to American soil in the next few years. The other competitors are SpaceX and Boeing. You can read a more in-depth look at their proposals here.

Source: Sierra Nevada Corp.

Elizabeth Howell

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.

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