NASA’s new space plane is getting ready to take flight

NASA’s next cargo delivery vehicle—a spunky little space plane that looks like it could be an offspring of the space shuttle—is getting ready to fly.

The svelte and snub nosed Dream Chaser will soon be shipped to the Mojave desert in California where it would begin a series of ground tests that would eventually culminate with a flight from an altitude of 2.5 miles high.

To get to this point, however, has been a long road for its manufacturer, the Sierra Nevada Corp. The company had originally pursued a NASA contract to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. But it lost out to SpaceX and Boeing, and so it then turned its attention to another contract—one to fly cargo and supplies to the station.

The bid was something of a longshot, especially since the incumbents were well liked and had proven vehicles. But Sierra Nevada last year won a slice of the contract, along with incumbents Orbital ATK and SpaceX, and could begin flying by late 2019.

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