The private space company Sierra Nevada Corporation tested its Dream Chaser spacecraft this weekend when it was released from a helicopter at an altitude of 3,800 meters (2.4 miles) and then landed at the Edwards Air Force Base in southern California. The flight took about a minute and during the flight, the Dream Chaser achieved a maximum speed of approximately 530 km/h (329 mph).
The Dream Chaser looks like a stubby version of the old-fashioned space shuttle; it is based on NASA and Russian designs. The spacecraft is about 9 meters (30 feet) long and can carry up to 5,500 kilograms (12,125 lbs) of cargo up to the International Space Station. It will be launched into space on an Atlas V rocket from the United Launch Alliance (ULA).
The Sierra Nevada corporation had originally thought that Dream Chaser would transport astronauts to space but when NASA handed out contracts to private space companies, Sierra Nevada wasn’t among them.
Since then, the company has made every effort to transform Dream Chaser into an unmanned transport ship and last year, the company signed contracts with NASA to deliver materials to ISS International Space Station. The first delivery with Dream Chaser to ISS is expected to lift off the ground sometime in 2020.
The Sierra Nevada company also has a United Nations contract which means that countries that lack their own space programs will able to send up experiments and other things they want in space with a Dream Chaser shuttle.