Spaceflight Insider

Touchdown! SNC inks agreement for Dream Chaser to land at Ellington Airport

SIerra Nevada Corporation has entered into an agreement to have the cargo version of the Dream Chaser space plane to land at Ellington Airport (archive photo). Credit: Ken Ulbrich / NASA

SIerra Nevada Corporation has entered into an agreement to have the cargo version of the Dream Chaser space plane to land at Ellington Airport (archive photo). Credit: Ken Ulbrich / NASA

Not being selected to proceed under NASA’s Commercial Crew transportation Capability has not slowed the manufacturers of the Dream Chaser space plane down one bit. Sierra Nevada Corporation announced on Tuesday, March 24, that it had entered into an agreement to have an uncrewed version of Dream Chaser land at Ellington Airport’s Spaceport. SNC signed this agreement with the Houston Airport System (HAS). The only thing remaining now – is to see if the space plane will be selected by NASA as part of the second round of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

“Entering into this new agreement with HAS will lead to enabling all variants of the Dream Chaser spacecraft to land in Houston, offering the ability to return cargo and science to Houston directly from space,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems. “Through this agreement, we want to promote broad awareness of the importance of utilizing low-Earth orbit as a source of research, science, and the expansion of space flight that are critical to Houston’s ongoing position as a ‘Space City’. Houston has earned its place at the forefront of space exploration with such institutes as NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Rice Space University, the Texas Medical Center, the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, and many other organizations.”

SNC and HAS will now review what further opportunities between the two organizations might be available. SNC appears to have learned from the experience of having not been selected to proceed under NASA’s CCP initiative and is looking into developing the new version of the spacecraft for not only government clients, but also commercial, scientific, and other possible customers as well.

Sierra Nevada Corporation Dream Chaser NASA  space plane photo credit  Ken Ulbrich NASA posted on SpaceFlight Inisder

The crewed version of Dream Chaser (archive photo). Photo Credit: Ken Ulbrich / NASA

“The Houston Airport System is pleased to continue working with Sierra Nevada Corporation as a landing site for their Dream Chaser spacecraft,” said Ellington Airport’s General Manager, Arturo Machuca. “As we move into the final phase of receiving our spaceport license, it is important that HAS work with private industry to ensure the sustainability of the Houston Spaceport. The Dream Chaser spacecraft, with its unique horizontal runway landing capability, low-g entry, and use of non-toxic propulsion, makes it an ideal test bed for biomedical, pharmaceutical, cellular, and genetic research payloads. Houston, a leader in space-based biomedical research, is eager to work with SNC to sustain and advance these research opportunities in low-Earth orbit, then gently return them directly to Houston for immediate unloading.”

This agreement is dependent on HAS getting approval for Ellington Airport to be an approved spaceport. If this happens, Ellington Airport will be the tenth licensed spaceport in the United States.

As noted earlier on SFI, the cargo version of Dream Chaser appears to have been derived from NASA’s cancelled X-38 Crew Return Vehicle. The Colorado-based firm is hopeful that providing NASA with the ability to access experiments immediately after touching down will increase its likelihood of being accepted as the latest commercial firm to launch cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station.

ISS International Space Station X-38 Crew Return Vehicle NASA image posted on SpaceFlight Insider

The cargo-carrying version of Dream Chaser appears to be based, at least somewhat, on NASA’s X-38 Crew Return Vehicle. Photo Credit: NASA


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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments

Then how will they get the Dream Chaser back to Florida for launch ?

If select, designed, developed built and flown (something that is doubtful to me) the Dream Chaser cargo will basically be an UAV glider. The fact that the company signed this agreement is simply a publicity stunt. After they actually do a test launch and landing and get FAA approval to operate in US airspace this becomes news.

The “publicity stunt” as you call it is just another example of a new dimension of the space race, the quest for the hearts and minds of the public. All the companies, including NASA have realized in the past few years that in order to thrive, not only do the companies need to have cost effective, reliable gear, they have to have a following amongst the “civilians”. It’s no different than when Hollywood announces they’ve signed some big name to do a movie, nothing really has happened, but it generates “news”. We live in a world where something has to happen everyday otherwise people’s attention wanders, a steady drumbeat of stories is a good thing, even if some of those stories are a bit of a stretch.

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