Updated gallery with official photographs from Saturday's flight test.
Four years ago, the Dream Chaser's first glide and landing test ended in a crash after its landing gear failed to deploy correctly. Since then, the reusable spaceplane has undergone a complete refurbishment and finally achieved its first successful free-flight and landing on Saturday.
After a recent captive carry test, the Dream Chaser's first successful glide flight and landing marks a significant milestone for the project after a rocky few years of development. Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) tweeted enthusiastically on Saturday, "The Dream Chaser had a beautiful flight and landing!" following the successful free-flight test carried out on November 11, at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, California.
The Dream Chaser is being developed under one of three contracts awarded by NASA in 2016 to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) from 2019 onwards. Unlike the other two capsule-based programs, the Dream Chaser is the only spacecraft capable of landing on a runway, meaning it can not only arrive with ISS research samples at any large-scale commercial airport in the world, but it will also be able to return more precious and fragile research samples that might be otherwise damaged by alternative re-entry methods.
"The Dream Chaser flight test demonstrated excellent performance of the spacecraft's aerodynamic design and the data shows that we are firmly on the path for safe, reliable orbital flight," says Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC's Space System business area.
The Dream Chaser is currently on target to begin commercial orbital delivery missions to the ISS beginning in 2020.