Sierra Nevada Corporation after glide test flight of Dream Chaser space plane


If Sierra Nevada is going to fulfill supply missions for the International Space Station and the United Nations, it'll have to prove that its Dream Chaser spacecraft is ready to fly... and it just took a big step in that direction.

On Saturday, private spaceflight company Sierra Nevada announced that its Dream Chaser spaceplane had successfully glided and landed on a runway after being released from a helicopter.

The company tweeted photos of the craft gliding to a landing at Edwards Air Force Base on Saturday.

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"The lifting-body design gives Dream Chaser a higher lift-to-drag ratio and allows for greater cross-range landing capability, meaning the landing zone (or places where it can land) is greatly increased", said the company. NASA has awarded the company a Commercial Resupply Services contract to provide ISS resupply flights from 2019 to 2024. Sierra Nevada was picked for that round, along with SpaceX and Orbital ATK again. The company said several hours after the test that the glide flight was a success, and would release more details November 13. (5,500 kilograms) of cargo to the International Space Station.

Dream Chaser was carrying the same space-grade avionics that it'll use for ISS missions, Sierra Nevada said. The Dream Chaser used an onboard autonomous guidance computer to line up with the runway and land, deploying two main landing gear wheels and a front nose skid. The Dream Chaser, however, which is meant to launch on top of an Atlas V rocket, glides down to Earth like a plane after reentering the atmosphere, landing horizontally on a runway.