Sierra Nevada spacecraft completes first test flight in 4 years

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The unmanned craft is created to launch atop a rocket and shuttle cargo and supplies to the International Space Station, and then return to land on a runway with experiments and samples from the space station.

Sierra Nevada Corporation's privately built Dream Chaser space plane aced a critical test Saturday (Nov. 11) during a successful free-flight over California's Mojave Desert.

The engineering test article (ETA) was lifted by a helicopter sky-crane and released from an altitude of over 3,000 meters, Space News reported.

The company tweeted photos of the craft gliding to a landing at Edwards Air Force Base on Saturday. Sierra Nevada was picked for that round, along with SpaceX and Orbital ATK again.

Sierra Nevada Corporation confirmed that test flight was finished with success. (5,500 kilograms) of cargo to the International Space Station. Sierra Nevada initially designed the Dream Chaser to carry astronauts, but the company has since reworked the design to be an autonomous cargo spaceplane. The company won a Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract from NASA in 2016 to transport cargo to and from the ISS. 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.

Main objective of test flight was verifying ability of guidance system for independent flight and landing.

The flight was the second free flight of the Dream Chaser.

The spacecraft is still in its prototype phase so any data gathered from the test will help influence the final design of Dream Chaser.

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