Sierra Nevada encouraging spaceport development with new program
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has created a new initiative to help the development of potential landing sites for its Dream Chaser reusable spacecraft. The program is called the Dream Chaser Preferred Landing Site Program. It offers assistance to spaceports and commercial airports that may want to become designated landing locations for the Dream Chaser.
According to the press release from SNC, the new program has three different levels of participation. The highest level in the program gives the landing site and SNC a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) re-entry license for that site. The new program is based on work that SNC is currently performing in coordination with Ellington Spaceport in Houston, Texas, and the Huntsville International Airport Authority (HIA) in Huntsville, Alabama.
Recently, the FAA granted a launch site license to the Houston Airport System (HAS), allowing the launch of reusable vehicles from Houston. SNC is also working with the City of Huntsville to assess the feasibility of landing the Dream Chaser spacecraft at the Huntsville International Airport, a public-use airport.
“The number of applicants requesting spaceport licenses both domestically and internationally has increased dramatically over the past 24 months,” said John Roth, vice president of business development and strategy for SNC’s Space Systems. “SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft is the only commercial space vehicle that is capable not only of a runway landing, but [also] landing on runways that already support commercial aircraft. SNC has created this program based on the tremendous interest we have received to date from spaceports and airports around the world that want to host Dream Chaser landings as a stimulant to their local economies.”
The Dream Chaser was SNC’s entry into both the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) and the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) programs. While both SpaceX and Boeing were eventually awarded transportation contracts, Sierra Nevada received no further funding beyond CCiCap. Despite the loss in the CCtCap, SNC has continued to develop the Dream Chaser vehicle.
As a lifting body vehicle, the Dream Chaser is well suited for programs such as SNC’s Preferred Landing Site Program. The vehicle does not use any toxic propellants, so ground crew and environmental safety are easier to work with. The spacecraft also requires a runway approximately 10,000 feet (3,050 m) long for landing – something that many larger commercial airports should be able to accommodate.
“Dream Chaser is poised to lead the commercial space industry in reusable, low-Earth orbital flight,” said Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems. “The benefits of multiple landing sites would be significant to both the landing site community and to the Dream Chaser network of domestic and international partners. With each Preferred Landing Site designation, comes a greater opportunity to make commercial space an accessible reality.”
Although Dream Chaser was not chosen to move forward under NASA’s Commercial Crew transportation Capability (CCtCap) phase of the Commercial Crew Program; the company has moved forward with other agencies to develop and fly the Dream Chaser. Some of these include the European Space Agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.