This Space Plane Is One Step Closer to Cargo Runs to the Space Station


Image: MOTHERBOARD
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s flashy vehicle is designed to resupply the International Space Station.

By Becky Ferreira | MOTHERBOARD

The Dream Chaser, a sleek space plane developed by the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), lived up to its name on Saturday by successfully landing at California’s Edwards Air Force Base after a free-flight test.

The uncrewed spacecraft was dropped out of a helicopter flying at an altitude of 12,324 feet over the Mojave Desert. The Dream Chaser descended for 60 seconds, reaching speeds of 330 miles per hour, before touching down on the runway to come to a controlled stop, in contrast to its sketchier 2013 flight test, which ended with it skidding off the tarmac.

Measuring about 30 feet (nine meters) in length, the space plane looks like a miniature version of NASA’s retired Space Shuttles, and follows the same basic spaceflight logic. To get to space, the vehicle will be attached to a heavy-lift rocket and launched vertically, but on its return trip to Earth, it will land horizontally on a runway, ideally intact and ready to be reused on future missions.

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