On Saturday, sierra nevada’s dream chaser spaceplane successfully completed its free-flight test at South California’s Edwards Air Force Base. The reusable vehicle made a perfect landing on the runway at the airbase after being dropped from a helicopter at an altitude of a little less than 12,500 feet. The test flight lasted for 60 seconds, and during this flight, the spaceplane was able to achieve a maximum speed of 330 mph. The spacecraft finally touched down on the runway at a speed of 191 mph.

The landing gears of the vehicle failed during first test flight

This was Dream Chaser’s second test flight. The first test flight of the spacecraft was carried out in 2013, during which the vehicle failed to land smoothly. The landing gear of the spaceplane failed to deploy correctly, causing Dream Chaser to crash-land on the runway. Since that flight, Sierra Nevada refurbished the craft completely. They improved the landing gear of the plane and also restored the dings on its exterior. The vehicle was finally able to make a smooth, successful landing on the runway on Saturday 12 November.

In an interview with the New York Times, Mark N. Sirangelo, the chief of Sierra Nevada Space Systems said that the Dream Chaser is in good shape, and probably no more glide tests for the vehicle would now be required.

He also stated that the next flight of the spacecraft—if NASA agrees—could be a cargo resupply flight to the ISS within next two or three years.

NASA awarded the contract in 2016

Sierra Nevada is developing the autonomous, self-flying Dream Chaser under a NASA contract awarded in 2016. NASA offered Sierra Nevada this contract to make a reusable spaceplane able to carry cargo supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

The current version of the spaceplane is unable to carry any astronauts to space.

Return flight to Earth will be gentler

While SpaceX and Orbital ATK are developing two capsule-based programs, the Dream Chaser is the only spacecraft with capabilities to land on a runway. After it becomes operational, the vehicle will use the runway at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for landing.

Its return flight to Earth will be gentler compared to capsule-based flights and will offer fewer vibrations to delicate scientific samples being brought back to Earth from space. This spacecraft will also allow unloading the cargo more quickly.

According to NASA and Sierra Nevada, the Dream Chaser is currently on target to commence cargo resupply missions to ISS in 2020.