Dream Chaser undergoes captive carry test

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. The Dream Chaser -- a reusable automated cargo lifting-body spaceplane being developed by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems -- underwent a captive carry test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB on August 30. The test was part of the spacecraft’s Phase Two flight test efforts to advance the orbiter closer to space flight, according to a press release from SNC.

During the recent test, a Columbia Helicopters Model 234-UT Chinook helicopter successfully carried the to the same altitude and flight conditions the Dream Chaser would experience before release on a free flight test. The SNC Mission Control Center team sent commands to Dream Chaser, monitored performance, and collected critical test data designed to allow the team to refine Dream Chaser systems to enable peak performance on the actual free flight test day. The captive carry test obtained data and evaluated systems such as radar altimeters, flush air data system, air data probes, and the navigation system.

The Dream Chaser was delivered to /Armstrong at the start of 2017 to set up for several months of testing at the center to prepare for its upcoming approach and landing flight on one of Edwards AFB’s runways. The test campaign is aimed at helping SNC validate the aerodynamic properties, flight software, and control system performance of the Dream Chaser.

The completed captive carry test is one of two planned at Edwards for this year; NASA officials say that if the second captive carry test is a success, it will clear the way for a free flight test of the craft, which is tentatively scheduled by the end of 2017.

The Dream Chaser is also being prepared to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract, beginning in 2019. According to NASA, the data gathered from the current test campaign will help influence and inform the final design of the Dream Chaser, which will fly at least six cargo delivery missions to and from the ISS by 2024.

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