Sierra Nevada is developing Dream Chaser to deliver supplies to the space station for NASA under the agency's Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) program.
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.
Below, photos and renderings of the new spacecraft.
Of course, Dream Chaser is not the only mini-shuttle aiming for the stars.
The design of The device is based on the project of the HL-20, which in the 1990s years were developed by NASA. They're created to be used 15 or more times and have autonomous launch, flight and landing capabilities, according to Sierra Nevada Corp. The sleek but stubby black and white craft rolled to a stop at the same site where NASA's full-sized shuttles sometimes landed, looking very much like a "baby brother" to the retired orbiters. 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 Dream Chaser is 30 feet (9 meters) long, about one quarter the length of a space shuttle. Right now, two companies - SpaceX and Orbital ATK - hold contracts with NASA to periodically resupply the station through 2018. Under that agreement, Sierra Nevada will fly at least six cargo delivery missions for NASA by 2024, agency officials said in the November 11 statement. The Dream Chaser from Sierra Nevada offers more reliable landings than the other two now offer. 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. A first flight of the Dream Chaser Cargo System is scheduled for 2020, with a minimum of six flights through 2024 under the contract.