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Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Space Plane Aces Free-Flight Drop Test

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The Dream Chaser rolls out on Runway 22L at Edwards Air Force Base California. Credit NASA

Dream Chaser is a derivative project from NASA's 1990s HL-20 Launch System, which in turn was inspired by the Soviet Spiral program, a series of spacecraft developed for space warfare and orbital-glide bombing since the late 1960s.

Prototype spacecraft Dream Chaser has successfully completed its first glide test flight nearly two years after securing a multi-billion dollar contract from Nasa. Lifted by CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter (Columbia 234-U) which took off from Runway 22L at Edwards Air Force Base and delivered to altitude of 3810 m, Dream Chaser was dropped and performed glide flight and automatic landing.

Below, photos and renderings of the new spacecraft. But in 2014, NASA didn't pick the Dream Chaser to do crewed flights to the ISS, going with SpaceX and Boeing's proposed vehicles instead. Sierra Nevada representatives announced on Twitter Saturday. The company says it will release more information about the test Monday afternoon.

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SNC's lifting-body spacecraft has been in development for more than a decade and is created to deliver up to 5,500kg of pressurised and unpressurised cargo to the space station. But past year, NASA awarded a second round of contracts, in order to cover cargo shipments to the ISS from 2019 through 2024.

The spacecraft will be launched on top of Atlas V rockets built by the United Launch Alliance and on its return to Earth it will land on the runway. It was the second glide test for the project. The Dream Chaser used an onboard autonomous guidance computer to line up with the runway and land, deploying two main landing gear wheels and a front nose skid.

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