Monday, February 04, 2013

Dream Chaser, Private Space Plane, Poised For Big Test Flight | SPACE NEWS

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Dream Chaser, Private Space Plane, Poised For Big Test Flight

By Mike Wall via The Huff Post

     A private space plane is slated to fly on its own for the first time in the next six to eight weeks, a key drop-test milestone in the vehicle's quest to fly astronauts on roundtrip space missions.

The Dream Chaser spacecraft, built by aerospace firm Sierra Nevada Corp., will be released by a carrier helicopter at an altitude of 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) or so, then fly back and land autonomously on a runway at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California.

The unmanned 30-second drop test will kick off a series of trials that culminate in trips to low-Earth orbit and back, potentially paving the way for contracted, crew-carrying flights to the International Space Station for NASA, company officials said during a press conference today (Jan. 30).

The seven-passenger Dream Chaser looks a bit like a miniature space shuttle. It's about 29.5 feet (9 m) long and has a wingspan of 22.9 feet (7 m). For comparison, NASA's space shuttle was 122 feet (37 m) long, with a wingspan of 78 feet (24 m). . . .

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