Sierra Nevada is still working on their Dream Chaser spacecraft. As Company has not yet built space certified version, work is still in progress – on Monday 17 July, Dream Chaser passed successfully another tow test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
It is important step before planned for the end of 2017 series of drop tests, when unpiloted version of Dream Chaser will be dropped from helicopter and later will perform series of maneuvers to land of its own gear. Even if future version of Dream Chaser will be equipped with different gear (previously Sierra Nevada adopted gear from F-5E jet fighter and it failed during tests in 2013), tow tests are very important. Trials will show how strong is construction of the space plane, particularly how strong are points where gear is attached to the structure of the Dream Chaser and if another subsystems are working properly during ordinary maneuvers after landing.
Tests performed at Edwards Air Force Base on Monday were simple. Car was towing Dream Chaser until it reached assumed speed and next it was released from the towing rope. Next onboard systems like braking system, navigation and control systems work just as during ordinary landing. Of course this speed was not comparable to speed reached when Dream Chaser will perform ordinary landing, but still it was enough to verify if space plane is will manage with maneuvers after touch down.
Next phase of tests are in general based on another tow tests and later in 2017 first flights with Dream Chaser suspended under a helicopter. First tests finished with first independent landing of Dream Chaser are planned for the end of 2017.