The Dream Chaser was redesigned for cargo missions and in 2016, NASA announced that Sierra Nevada (along with SpaceX and a new company named Orbital ATK) would all be used for cargo missions to the space station in the upcoming future. It's an important milestone in the Dream Chaser's development, as Sierra Nevada readies the plane for spaceflight.
The Dream Chaser is only a quarter of the size that the Space Shuttle was.
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Dream Chaser looks a lot like a miniature version of a NASA space shuttle. Back in 2010, NASA awarded the company $20 million to develop the Dream Chaser as a crewed vehicle, and Sierra Nevada did a ton of tests over the next couples of years to prepare the spacecraft for carrying passengers.
Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) revealed its spacecraft underwent a free-flight test, launching from a helicopter and landing at the Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert. The company promised to release more test flight details, images and video on Monday (Nov. 13).
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According to Nasa, the flight test "helped advance the vehicle under Nasa's Commercial Crew Program space act agreement, as well as helped prepare the vehicle for service under Nasa's Commercial Resupply Services 2 program".
The Dream Chaser last flew in 2013, but a problem with its left landing gear meant it had a hard touchdown, which caused the plane to skid off the runway and sustain minor damage. (5,500 kilograms) of cargo to the International Space Station. A company called SpaceDev resurrected the design, but after its founder left to form a space tourism company, SpaceDev was purchased by Sierra Nevada in 2008.
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The Dream Chaser is an autonomous, self-flying spacecraft, and this iteration will not carry any people. A first flight of the Dream Chaser Cargo System is scheduled for 2020, with a minimum of six flights through 2024 under the contract.