Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Conducts Critical Flight Test

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The craft was made by the Sierra Nevada Corporation and was tested at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.

NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center said in November 11 statement that the glide flight "verified and validated the performance of the Dream Chaser in the critical final approach and landing phase of flight".

The test had been long-planned but not publicly announced, according to Space Flight Now. Its on-board guidance system lined up the spacecraft with the runway during the steep final approach.

The Dream Chaser is being developed to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station without a crew aboard. The device was tested in free flight mode and landing.

The Dream Chaser itself has an interesting and rather convoluted history.

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SNC is one of the three private companies, which include Oribtal ATK and SpaceX, selected by the U.S. space agency to transport supplies to the International Space Station for the next eight years in a deal potentially worth 14 billion U.S. dollars (£10bn).

Since then, they've had an on-again off-again relationship with NASA. The Soviet program included several successful space tests, including a scaled-down version of the envisioned spacecraft, the BOR-4, launched in 1982. The sleek but stubby black and white craft rolled to a stop at the same site where NASA's full-sized shuttles sometimes landed, looking very much like a "baby brother" to the retired orbiters. They're created to be used 15 or more times and have autonomous launch, flight and landing capabilities, according to Sierra Nevada Corp. The company won a Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract from NASA in 2016 to transport cargo to and from the ISS.

The first actual spaceflight of the Dream Chaser is planned for 2020.

The spacecraft will be launched on top of Atlas V rockets built by the United Launch Alliance and on its return to Earth it will land on the runway.

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