Dream Chaser space plane successfully completes test flight

Dream Chaser space plane successfully completes test flight

Dream Chaser, which looks like a smaller version of the Space Shuttle, would initially be launched on an Atlas V rocket. It's an important milestone in the Dream Chaser's development, as Sierra Nevada readies the plane for spaceflight.

The unmanned craft is created to launch atop a rocket and shuttle cargo and supplies to the International Space Station, and then return to land on a runway with experiments and samples from the space station.

Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) revealed its spacecraft underwent a free-flight test, launching from a helicopter and landing at the Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert.

Two other companies, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, will use their own spacecraft to fly delivery missions for NASA as part of the CRS-2 program.

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The United States has relied on private contracts as well as the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos to get its astronauts and supplies to the ISS since the Space Shuttle was taken out of service in 2011. Sierra Nevada representatives announced on Twitter Saturday. The vehicle flew a similar glide flight in October 2013, which the company and NASA considered successful despite a landing gear failure that caused the vehicle to skid off the runway after landing. It is being created to land on runways and then allow crews to access the materials flown back to Earth soon after landing. A company called SpaceDev resurrected the design, but after its founder left to form a space tourism company, SpaceDev was purchased by Sierra Nevada in 2008.

Of course, Dream Chaser is not the only mini-shuttle aiming for the stars.

SNC's lifting-body spacecraft has been in development for more than a decade and is created to deliver up to 5,500kg of pressurised and unpressurised cargo to the space station. Sierra Nevada plans to give more details on the test during a press conference this afternoon.

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