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Space & Astronomy

Dream Chaser flight tests are set to resume

By T.K. Randall
March 7, 2017 · Comment icon 7 comments

Work on the Dream Chaser is going well. Image Credit: NASA / Ken Ulbrich
Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser space plane is being readied for a new series of tests in California.
The impressive vehicle, which looks a bit like a smaller version of NASA's space shuttles, was originally developed with manned spaceflight in mind but is now set to fly cargo runs to the International Space Station within the next few years.

A partially-constructed test version of the Dream Chaser spacecraft arrived at Edwards Air Force Base back in January and is currently being prepped to begin undergoing tests.

"We'll do a series of ground tests," said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada's space systems division. "That will include towing the vehicle down the runway, and that allows us to see how it stops and how it moves, but it also allows us to test all the sensors on the vehicle because we can get it up to a high enough speed where that will happen."
Once these tests have been completed, the spacecraft will be subjected to "captive carry" tests where it will be suspended from a helicopter to test its aerosurfaces and navigation instruments.

It will then attempt a series of landings after being dropped for approach from a heavy-duty carrier helicopter in much the same way as NASA's space shuttle Enterprise which was used for landing demonstrations back in the 1970s.

If all goes well, Dream Chaser could be carrying cargo up to the space station by 2019.

Source: Spaceflight Now | Comments (7)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by paperdyer 7 years ago
Great news! I take it from the testing outlined that we still haven't found a way to have a space vehicle enter Earth's atmosphere with fuel aboard.  I understand re-entry is extremely hot, but I don't see space manned exploration within our own solar system as viable.  Sure we can land on low/no gravity bodies like our Moon but if we don't land and take off in the same complete vehicle we will tend to leave "litter" where we visited. It should be easier to do this on low atmospheric bodies, correct?
Comment icon #2 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
We have a way. Most spacecraft that have landed on Mars, going back to the Vikings in 1976, have entered the atmosphere with fuel on board. The question is why do you want it to have fuel on board? The shuttle proved, 36 years ago, that a glide landing is a safe and reliable landing method. Leaving fuel on-board lowers the available payload capacity and therefore improves costs. SpaceX have tested a version of the Dragon capsule which lands using rocket motors and therefore does have fuel on-board, but that does make economic sense. In the case of the Dragon it eliminates the costly recovery a... [More]
Comment icon #3 Posted by paperdyer 7 years ago
I never thought about the payload. I was worried about the shuttle or other vehicle being shot at by some terrorist.  Just coming in as a glider would make evading any obstacle difficult while being able to land at the designated landing strip or possibly an alternative. We get the occasional oops now with airplanes.  Rare, sure, but still possible. I'm sure that if space flight becomes routine the passenger flights won't be escorted to the ground like the shuttles.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
And in the real world how likely is that? How many terrorists have ever got close enough to an airport not in a war zone to shoot st the aircraft? Why will it be any different at a spaceport? What exactly are these fantasy terrorists shooting at these landing spacecraft with exactly? If it is small arms fire then the chances of them hitting a small, rapidly descending spacecraft are minimal. If they are using anti-aircraft weapons then having engines will make sod all difference anyway . The only place in the world where a returning spacecraft will need the agility of a fighter jet is in you... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
The shuttle chase planes were not there to protect the shuttles from obstacles or terrorists, they were there to film the shuttles and help the astronauts judge the distance to the ground. The shuttles would have landed perfectly well without them.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Silent Trinity 7 years ago
"but is now set to fly cargo runs to the International Space Station within the next few years"....Yeah that's chasing the dream...delivering toilet rolls and athletes foot ointment to some astronauts lol....yes yes I know I'm making jokes and they wouldn't have athletes foot etc before I get flamed haha. But no seriously, it is great to see that the flights will be resuming again and our focus on space travel is that bit more prevalent
Comment icon #7 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
That's the future unfolding. 

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