A company based out of Sparks, Nevada is hoping to pick up where NASA's Space Shuttle program left off. On Saturday, the company conducted a test of its proto-type space vehicle called "Dream Chaser."
The vehicle was taken by carrier helicopter to an altitute of 12,500 feet and released from its teather. The 50 degree drop was part of the test. Mark Sirangelo, company executive and spokesperson, spoke with New 4 in a teleconference this morning. He said; "The steep drop is actually what the vehicle would be expected to fly in during the last couple of minutes from a return from orbit." Sirangelo said the unmanned craft followed commands and not only pulled out of the dive, but flew flawlessly toward Edwards AirForce Base. He said; "The vehicle began doing all the manuvers necessary and there were virtually no major control manuver problems." He added, "The vehicle didn't veer, it didn't turn, it didn't have any flight difficulties whatsoever."
Unfortunately, upon landing the left landing gear failed to deploy. Sirangelo called the glitch minor. He said, "The issue that we encountered was certainly not one I would have loved to have avoided, but at the end of the day, on the list of things that could have gone wrong, to us, it was one that was very minor for the futrue of the vehicle."
The video supplied by the company stopped short of showing the landing. Sirangelo said that part of the video was being held back pending the outcome of an investigation. He said, "There is no damage to the runway. There is no personnel injuries of any type. The vehicle was damaged on its skid and rolled off the runway but we believe its repairable and will fly again."
Sirangelo said the company was testing three things: to ensure it would fly after the steep drop. Second, that it could be controlled and finally, that it could approach and land on the runway. He called the test a significant success. The company hopes to eventually conduct space missions including transporting cargo and astonauts to the International Space Station. NASA is expected to pay the company $227.5 million for development of this phase of the space vehicle.