Over the past two weeks, a pair of important spaceflight milestones have featured spaceplanes; reusable, winged orbiters designed to launch atop commercial rockets but land like airplanes rather than splashing down in the ocean. Looking like scaled-down versions of NASA’s Space Shuttle orbiter, spacecraft from Sierra Nevada and Boeing are undergoing testing for commercial and government missions, respectively.
Dream Chaser returns to the skies over California
In late August, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser spaceplane underwent a “captive-carry” test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. The prototype spacecraft, an engineering test article, was lifted by helicopter to the altitude from which it will later perform free-flight tests. These phase two tests are milestones on the path to certifying the Dream Chaser for orbital flight and use in both commercial crew and commercial cargo applications. Sierra Nevada is working with NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services office on the CRS-2 contract.
Dream Chaser spaceplane sitting on the runway at Edwards Air Force Base / NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. Photo credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation
August’s test marks a return to the skies for the Dream Chaser engineering test article, which had previously suffered a landing gear failure during a free flight ...