Space

Dream Chaser spaceplane hauled aloft in first captive carry flight test

Dream Chaser spaceplane hauled...
The current design is unmanned but allows for a future variant to include a crew of up to seven
The current design is unmanned but allows for a future variant to include a crew of up to seven
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The Dream Chaser is capable of manned and unmanned missions
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The Dream Chaser is capable of manned and unmanned missions
A Chinook helicopter hoisted the Dream Chaser into the air for this first captive-carry flight test
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A Chinook helicopter hoisted the Dream Chaser into the air for this first captive-carry flight test
The Dream Chaser during the captive carry test
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The Dream Chaser during the captive carry test
The Dream Chaser before the flight test
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The Dream Chaser before the flight test
The Dream Chaser is capable of a runway landing on any large-scale commercial airport runway in the world
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The Dream Chaser is capable of a runway landing on any large-scale commercial airport runway in the world
The appeal of being able to land anywhere in the world sets the Dream Chaser apart from its competitors
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The appeal of being able to land anywhere in the world sets the Dream Chaser apart from its competitors
The Dream Chaser at sunrise before the test flight
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The Dream Chaser at sunrise before the test flight
The Dream Chaser in the air
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The Dream Chaser in the air
A look at the new folded wing design 
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A look at the new folded wing design 
An artist impression of the Dream Chaser attached to a rocket
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An artist impression of the Dream Chaser attached to a rocket
The spacecraft is capable of multiple return trips between ISS and Earth
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The spacecraft is capable of multiple return trips between ISS and Earth
The current design is unmanned but allows for a future variant to include a crew of up to seven
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The current design is unmanned but allows for a future variant to include a crew of up to seven
Artist impression of the craft docking with ISS
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Artist impression of the craft docking with ISS
The Dream Chaser
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The Dream Chaser

After years of development and numerous iterations, the latest Dream Chaser spaceplane has successfully completed its first captive carry flight test over the Mojave Desert. Hoisted up by a Chinook helicopter, the Dream Chaser will undertake one more captive carry test flight in the near future before embarking upon its first free flight later in the year.

In early 2016, NASA awarded three private companies contracts to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) over the coming years. Alongside Orbital ATK's Cygnus and SpaceX's Dragon, the Dream Chaser signed up to execute a minimum of six missions to the ISS between 2019 and 2024. As well as delivering supplies, the missions need to be able to return cargo safely back to Earth.

A Chinook helicopter hoisted the Dream Chaser into the air for this first captive-carry flight test
A Chinook helicopter hoisted the Dream Chaser into the air for this first captive-carry flight test

The Dream Chaser project stands apart from the other two, capsule-based programs in that it is the only craft of the three capable of a runway landing and its particular design gives it the ability to land on any large-scale commercial airport runway in the world. This feature has proved of great interest to other space organizations around the globe, with the UN also showing interest in the Dream Chaser project.

It has been a rocky road to this day for the Dream Chaser project after initially losing a NASA contract aimed at ferrying crew from Earth to the ISS. The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) subsequently redesigned the craft, creating a new unmanned version tailored to the transportation of cargo.

This current Dream Chaser design is capable of carrying both pressurized and unpressurized cargo, it features foldable wings, and is "launcher-agnostic," meaning it will be compatible with a variety of rocket platforms. SNC also suggests the Dream Chaser is easily modified into a manned variant that could support future crew transportation missions.

The current design is unmanned but allows for a future variant to include a crew of up to seven
The current design is unmanned but allows for a future variant to include a crew of up to seven

The latest captive carry test that saw the craft lifted to an altitude at which it would be released before a free flight test and allowed the engineers to monitor a variety of factors in a flight environment and obtain data to evaluate several of its systems.

"We are very pleased with results from the Captive Carry test, and everything we have seen points to a successful test with useful data for the next round of testing," says Lee "Bru" Archambault, SNC's director of flight operations.

Sources: SNCorp, NASA

6 comments
GeneralMayhem
I want it so succeed because it looks so cool.
ikarus342000
I wish them a big success. For my feeling the best of its competitors.
Brian M
There is a saying in aviation design, If it looks right it probably is right - this looks right. Pity its not a manned variant. But guess if its successful then going to a manned version will be relatively, makes for safer testing anyway.
Sean-Anthony Sutherland
It looks like the farscape module =D
guzmanchinky
Isn't this Steve Austin's craft?
ljaques
It looks mean-cool, knowwhatImean? (pic with the 6 next to the runway) But having folding wings means potential hotspots during reentry, and tiles going bye-bye. I wish them luck as one of the suppliers of vehicles for the future. With others interested, and the resultant larger production line, it could dramatically drop the price.