For the past 10 years, Sierra Nevada Corporation has been chasing the dream of creating a small, lifting-body spacecraft that could be used to deliver cargo and eventually humans to the International Space Station. Fittingly, that spacecraft is known as Dream Chaser, and on Wednesday it took another step toward SNC’s goal of achieving orbital flight with the completion of its first captive carry test flight.
By hitching a tethered ride with a Columbia Helicopters Model 234-UT Chinook helicopter, the Dream Chaser was raised to the same altitude and flight conditions the spacecraft will eventually experience before release on an actual free flight test, according to SNC.
The purpose of this test flight was for the mission control team to send commands to Dream Chaser and monitor performance and collect operational data, which will be used to make improvements ahead of the second captive carry test later this year. “Everything we have seen points to a successful test with useful data for the next round of testing,” said Lee Archambault, SNC’s director of flight operations for the Dream Chaser program.
A successful second test will mean the Dream Chaser is ready for its first free flight test.
“This test is another indication the Dream Chaser is on track for meeting our key milestones on the way to orbital spaceflight,” said Steve Lindsey, vice president of Space Exploration Systems for SNC. “We are excited to move through the remaining ground and flight testing to help inform our CRS2 orbital vehicle design and upcoming production.”
The Dream Chaser also recently completed a successful 60 mph tow test.