Dream Chaser space craftSierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser space system has successfully completed its captive carry flight test, marking the beginning of its full-scale flight test programme.

It also marks the completion of the 12th milestone under NASA’s commercial crew development (CCDev) contract.

Sierra Nevada flight operations director Steve Lindsey said: "The successful captive carry flight test of the Dream Chaser full-scale flight vehicle marks the beginning of SNC’s flight test programme; a programme that culminates in crewed missions to the International Space Station for NASA."

During the test, the spacecraft was carried underneath a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane helicopter at Broomfield Airport, near the agency’s space division in Colorado, before being released to perform the test.

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Sierra Nevada said that it would continue the spacecraft’s flight testing to increase its capability for an autonomous approach and landing test (ALT), expected to be conducted this summer at Edwards Air Force Base, along with the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center.

Dream Chaser has also completed four other NASA commercial crew development round 2 (CCDev2) programme milestones, which include separation system testing, flight article main landing gear drop testing, captive carry interface testing, and a captive carry flight test readiness review.

"The successful captive carry flight test of the Dream Chaser full-scale flight vehicle marks the beginning of SNC’s flight test programme; a programme that culminates in crewed missions to the International Space Station for NASA."

The space craft’s separation system testing allowed the agency to assess the Dream Chaser-to-Atlas V launch vehicle separation system, which will be used to launch the spacecraft aboard Atlas V for the second stage following its injection into low orbit of Earth.

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The captive carrying testing will make it easier for Sierra Nevada to assess and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations for its further approach and landing tests, which are scheduled for later in the year.

Sierra Nevada is developing the Dream Chaser space system under NASA’s venture into commercially provided crew transport.

Dream Chaser will be used to transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) at lower cost than the traditional methods.


Image: Dream Chaser is being developed for NASA to transport astronauts to ISS. Photo: courtesy of Sierra Nevada Space Systems.