Dream Chaser space plane to begin NASA flight tests

A flatbed truck carrying the Dream Chaser, its wings and tail removed, pauses at Hangar 4802 at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California.

(Credit: NASA/Tom Tschida)

In another sign of ever-increasing commercial spaceflight activity, Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser space plane has arrived at NASA for testing.

Wrapped in plastic, the craft arrived at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where it will eventually undergo its first autonomous free flight Approach and Landing Test (ALT).

Part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program along with SpaceX and Boeing, the Dream Chaser is designed to launch vertically on top of an Atlas 5 rocket, dock with the International Space Station, and then return to Earth like a glider, landing on a runway.

Successful tests of the Dream Chaser could help end U.S. reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get people to the ISS, which costs U.S. taxpayers over $60 million a seat.

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