Dream Chaser test vehicle flies again!

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Capitalism in space: Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser test vehicle today completed its second glide test, the first since 2013, successfully gliding to a perfect landing after being dropped from a helicopter at an altitude of 10,000 feet.

Unlike the 2013 glide test, the landing gear worked perfectly. With two such tests under their belt, the company I think has demonstrated that the spacecraft will be able to execute a landing. Next comes the building and test flight of the actual spacecraft.



  • wayne

    There is computer-generated clickbait on this at YouTube, but the Company will be releasing actual video on Monday.

    Q: What is the upper limit in height, for a Helicopter?

  • wayne

    I need to pay a bit more attention to this stuff!— it looks like the miniature spy-shuttle that we already know works.

    What would happen….if we dropped a helicopter, from Space? (just being fanciful, but I will look this up.)

    Totally off the deep end:
    –is there such an animal, as an electric-helicopter or an electric-airplane? (not a glider, but powered flight)

  • ken anthony

    Surely it’s mostly a financial issue but the slow pace of forward movement on Dreamchaser development is so disappointing. One drop test every four years is unlikely to “git ‘er done.” It would be so nice to have Dreamchaser be part of the mix of working vehicles.

    On the other hand, the heavy lift reusable vehicles soon coming online is very encouraging.

  • Dick Eagleson


    There are hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of electric “helicopters” – RC drones from toy-size to some fairly sizable ones that typically have four or six rotors powered by lithium-ion batteries. There have been a number of large electric fixed-wig aircraft too, starting with Aerovironment’s Solar Challenger and continuing down to the present day. These are powered by a combination of solar cells on the upper wing skins and on-board lithium-ion batteries to allow continuous flight during the night. Most are research craft, long-duration reconnaissance aircraft or telecom relay aircraft.


    Dream Chaser, in its unmanned, cargo-only version, will be part of the mix of working vehicles roughly three years hence. The gap between glide and landing tests was driven by externalities, not by Sierra Nevada slow-rolling Dream Chaser. The 2013 test showed that Dream Chaser’s software was working acceptably. The latest test simply confirms the same for the updated software suite. SNC has been very busy with re-engineering of Dream Chaser into its cargo-only configuration. Doing an additional drop test was always on the schedule, but it wasn’t a high-priority item or likely one on the critical path given the success of the first test. But tests always make for interesting video. Engineering effort is invisible.

  • Dick and Ken: In addition, this second drop test was paid for by an earlier agreement, not the cargo contract that Sierra Nevada won. They held off doing this test until after they won the cargo contract to maximize its usefulness in designing and building the cargo version of Dream Chaser (which by the way is how it is spelled).

  • wayne

    “…excepting toys & gliders…” and fanciful research stuff like: http://www.wmich.edu/sunseeker/our-cars/

  • ken anthony

    Funny how things work out. The big advantage of Dream Chaser is landing people which now is on the back burner.

  • Edward

    You asked: “What would happen….if we dropped a helicopter, from Space?

    Funny you should ask. Rotary Rocket proposed doing just that with their Roton rocket.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Kp63-an2ts (2 minutes: 3rd test flight)

    As with its contemporaries, VentureStar and Delta Clipper, it never flew to space, so we never did get to see what would happen if we dropped a helicopter from space.

    As for the upper limit that a helicopter can fly, it is similar to the upper limit for any airplane. It depends upon the wing design and the engine. At some point, the air becomes too thin for the wings to generate enough lift to be able to take the craft any higher, and the power of the engine drops off with the reduced amount of available oxygen.

  • wodun

    Dream Chaser was always the coolest looking option for commercial crew. Somehow Boeing managed to win the contest though. The development timelines are remarkably similar even though SNC had to make a lot of changes for the cargo version.

    One of Dream Chaser’s benefits is that it can land more gently, which is good for some experiments. They have also been busy working on add on products/services/capabilities and tying strings to other governments. Having customers other than NASA and maximizing their opportunities are encouraging signs. It will be really neat to see them carry people one day.

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