January 23, 2014
SNC’s Dream Chaser Spaceplane Slated For November 2016 Launch
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
On Thursday, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced plans to launch a test flight of its Dream Chaser spaceplane in November 2016.
The vehicle is expected to liftoff aboard an Atlas V rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After circling our planet in low-Earth orbit, the vehicle will return to the Kennedy Space Center and land on the same landing strip used by the space shuttle program.
“Today we are very proud to announce that we have now formally negotiated starting our orbital space flight,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems. “We have acquired an Atlas V rocket and we have established a launch date – the first orbital date from Dream Chaser to be November of 2016.”
Sirangelo noted that his company has been developing Dream Chaser for the last nine years with two main goals in mind.
“There’s really two primary aspects to the Dream Chaser,” he said. “One is, that it has a significant amount of value, much like the space shuttle we will land on a runway, we’re able to transport people and critical cargo back and forth to the space station, we’re highly reusable… Shuttle Discovery flew 39 times and we’re expected to get that kind of reusability out of (Dream Chaser).”
Sirangelo went on to say that the Dream Chaser also enables all kinds of space-based activities.
“The vehicle is meant to do many things in space,” he said. “It’s not just about the technology behind it, but it’s about what you can do in space. In our case, we looked at what we can do in terms of working in space, discovering in space and observing from space.”
The SNC executive also announced that his company is currently working with Lockheed Martin to build its next Dream Chaser vehicle.
“Lockheed is now producing and constructing the composite shell for our next vehicle – a vehicle that will go into orbit on top of an Atlas V,” Sirangelo said. “It’s quite exciting to now start to say we have actually have fleet of vehicles.”
SNC also announced it has been reaching out to space agencies and companies in Europe in an attempt to inform and improve the Dream Chaser program.
Besides extending itself across international borders, SNC said it now has employment in 30 states. Sirangelo noted that many of these states are not typically thought of as being involved in the space exploration industry, and said many of the facilities he has visited proudly displayed images of space or other signs of their involvement.
SNC officials at the press conference also discussed their company’s expansion around Kennedy Space Center and the cumulative effect of how these developments aid in creating jobs and investment opportunities on the Space Coast. This and other developments are expected to convert the NASA facility into a multi-user spaceport.
Thursday’s activities at NASA were slated to be capped off by the launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-L), the second of three upgrades to an aging space-to-ground communications system.