KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – The makers of the Dream Chaser spaceplane are inching closer to its first space flight, which will culminate with a space shuttle-style landing at Kennedy Space Center.
Sierra Nevada’s Corp. plans to use the Launch and Landing Facility, formerly known as the space shuttle runway, to put its Dream Chaser wheels down following spaceflights to and from the International Space Station and, eventually, a private space station built by Sierra Nevada Corp.
The cargo spacecraft is set to begin carrying supplies for NASA to and from the International Space Station next year under the agency’s commercial resupply services program. The Federal Aviation Administration has now given the tiny shuttle approval to land on the runway at KSC.
Dream Chaser is capable of landing on almost any FAA-licensed landing site that has a 10,000-foot runway or anywhere a commercial airliner could touch down.
On Tuesday, Florida’s spaceport authority Space Florida and Sierra Nevada held a news conference on the runway where the space shuttle last landed in 2011. Space Florida now manages the private runaway under its new title, the Launch and Landing Facility.
“The Dream Chaser is a first of what we hope are many different kinds of events space activities that are occurring,” Space Florida President Frank DiBello said. “We’re just looking forward to a very, very bright future.”
Dream Chaser will launch on United Launch Alliance’s new rocket, the Vulcan Centaur, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Sierra Nevada Corp. recently announced part of the company has separated to form Sierra Space, which will oversee space systems.
Vice President of Space Systems Janet Kavandi, a former NASA astronaut, said the split was strategic for accelerating plans to build its private space station.
Sierra Space is looking to take advantage of the booming interest in commercial space investments.
“That should help us accelerate our plans so we want to be ready whenever the International Space Station comes to the end of its natural life, and so we want to have a space station up there. We want to have a proven out. We want to have the Dream Chaser vehicles flown and proven and flying people that, by that point in time, so that everything will be ready for the transition over to a fully commercial low Earth orbit destination,” Kavandi said. “That’s kind of the big picture and separating really helps us achieve that faster.”
Sierra Space is searching for a facility in Florida to process the Dream Chaser and the space station components. Kavandi said the company could use an existing space or build one if they don’t find something to meet their requirements.
Kavandi added Sierra Space plans to hire “a significant number of people” locally to support preparing Dream Chaser for flight and then refurbishing the spaceplane when it returns, as well assembling the space station pieces.
“We’re going to be taking into account a lot of talent to help us do that professionally and keep us on a rhythm once we start flying so I think there’s a lot of good, good work to be had here in the very near future,” Kavandi said.