Dream Chaser Gets A Lift

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Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser left the ground at Edwards Air Force Base on Wednesday but the real testing is just about to begin, more than 35 years after the idea for a small, reusable spacecraft was given form by the Soviet Union.  According to Wired, the 30-foot-long “space utility vehicle” was hoisted to 12,500 feet by a Chinook helicopter and then lowered back to the ground after retracting and putting down its gear. If Sierra Nevada has its way, the Dream Chaser will be able to launch to space with up to 12,125 pounds of cargo, including up to seven passengers, and return to land on any runway at least 10,000 feet long.

Wednesday was about checking the aerodynamics of the shuttle-shaped craft after decades of study, testing and, ultimately, storage by NASA. The Dream Chaser is derivative of the HL-20, a NASA design copied from the Russian BOR-4, which an Australian reconnaissance aircraft snapped a picture of in 1982. After extensive modeling and testing, the NASA prototype never made it to prime time but Sierra Nevada found it about 15 years ago and lifted it off the ground for the first time Wednesday. There will be one more helicopter hoist and recovery and then the space plane will be released (unmanned) for a landing. If it all works out, copies of the craft will be good for 15 trips to space, the first of which is planned for the International Space Station in 2020.

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