Dream Chaser Passes Captive-carry Flight Test

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A Sierra Nevada Corp. Dream Chaser flight vehicle was carried aloft by a heavy-lift helicopter in a May 29 captive-carry test meant to pave the way for an approach and landing test scheduled for later this summer.

Dream Chaser, a vertical-takeoff, horizontal-landing spaceplane modeled after NASA’s HL-20 personnel launch system concept, is one of several vehicles in the running for hundreds of millions of dollars the U.S. space agency plans to award this summer for continued development of commercial crew taxis.

The May 29 captive-carry test near the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Colorado was conducted under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program, which has awarded Louisville, Colo.-based Sierra Nevada Space Systems funding totaling more than $100 million since 2010.

In the immediate lead up to the test, Sierra Nevada completed four more CCDev milestones, including a May 24 readiness review for the captive-carry flight.

During the test, a full-scale Dream Chaser took to the sky for the first time, suspended beneath an Erickson Air-Crane helicopter by a high-strength tether. The goal of the captive-carry test was to verify Dream Chaser’s aerodynamic performance before an approach-and-landing glide test on tap for later this summer at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., according to a Sierra Nevada press release.

“The successful captive-carry flight test of the Dream Chaser full-scale flight vehicle marks the beginning of [Sierra Nevada’s] flight test program, a program that could culminate in crewed missions to the International Space Station for NASA,” former astronaut Steve Lindsey, head of the spaceplane’s flight operations at Sierra Nevada, said in a statement.