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A scary ending to Dream Chaser’s first flight as a landing wheel fails to deploy

dream-chaser wheelDream Chaser from Sierra Nevada has made its first free flight.  The unmanned vehicle was dropped from a helicopter 12,000 feet up and glided back on an automatic descent path to Edwards Air Force Base in California.  All went well until the final approach when one of the landing wheels failed to deploy.  This caused the craft to veer of the runway and sustain some damage.  The damage was mechanical, to landing gear borrowed from a fighter jet and unlike the type that will be used in the final operational version.  The accident is not expected to cause serious delay to the programme.

Unlike the Shuttle, Dream Chaser is a lifting body, and is designed to take up to 7 astronauts into low Earth orbit atop an Atlas 5 rocket.  While SpaceX and Boeing are both developing capsules that will parachute down as the Apollo capsules did, Dream Chaser draws on some of what was learned in the shuttle programme and will land on wheels on a runway.

It is quite fascinating to see NASA use the private sector to pursue several alternative technologies instead of putting all its eggs in one basket as it has done before.  The Dream Chaser was reported to have performed well, following the flight plan and descent trajectory.  With luck the faulty wheel will be put down as one of those “oops!” moments that have happened throughout the testing of new space vehicles.

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One Response

  1. “oops” moments for those on the ground…….”poops” moments for those in the air. I think I will keep both feet on terra firma for the time being.

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