Sierra Nevada Corporation is live in the Mojave Desert with a preliminary test flight of its reusable spaceship, the Dream Chaser.
The Dream Chaser is designed to fly without a pilot during its first real flights, reach orbit some 250 miles above Earth, and help resupply the International Space Station for NASA. It’s also been floated as a possible method to further service the Hubble Space Telescope, since people will eventually fly and ride inside.
The spacecraft is about 30 feet long, about one-tenth the weight of NASA’s now-retired 100-ton space shuttle, and designed to be reused about 15 times.
It’s a”sassy, greener, leaner sister to the space shuttle,” Kimberly Schwandt, a spokesperson for Sierra Nevada Corporation, said during a Facebook Live broadcast (embedded below).
The Dream Chaser will not be launched or fly on its own on Wednesday, however. Instead, it will be tethered to a large helicopter by wires and logging hooks, then lifted up and lapped around the desert.
The goal of this “captive drop test” is to get the ship up to realistic air speed and gather data for more rosky drop-tests later on, Steve Lindsey, a former NASA astronaut and the Sierra Nevada Corporation’s vice president of space exploration systems, said during the broadcast. In those future tests, the Dream Chaser will be dropped from the helicopter and attempt to land on a runway.
You can watch the test live below, and a reply once it’s complete.
Lindsey said the only way the Dream Chaser would fly on its own in this initial test is if a problem occurs and the helicopter has to release the spaceship as a safety precaution.
When complete and ready to ferry payloads – and eventually people – into space, the Dream Chaser will be positioned atop an Atlas V rocket and launched skyward.