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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Could Land at Ellington Space Port

As reported by the Examiner: Despite having been rejected in NASA’s commercial crew program, Sierra Nevada has been very busy trying to develop its lift body spacecraft, the Dream Chaser. Having rolled out a smaller, cargo version of the spacecraft for the second round for contracts for commercial cargo to the International Space Station, the company has amended the unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA to add a closeout review milestone that would help transition the Dream Chaser from the preliminary design review to the critical design review step. Finally, Sierra Nevada announced a new agreement on Tuesday with the Houston Airport System to use Ellington Spaceport as a landing site for the cargo version of the Dream Chaser.

The Dream Chaser had attracted the interest of many space observers when it was competing for a commercial crew contract because of some of its unique characteristics. The Dream Chaser would launch on top of a rocket, such as the Atlas V, and fly to the International Space Station or some other destination in low Earth orbit. But it would then reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and land on a runway, just like the space shuttle used to do. 

The Dream Chaser lost out to the SpaceX Dragon and the Boeing CST-100, two space capsules that would land vertically in the same manner as Apollo spacecraft.

If the Dream Chaser wins the second round of the commercial cargo contracts, it would launch from the Kennedy Space Center, deliver cargo to the ISS, and then take cargo such as the results of experiments. It can also be used as an unmanned flying laboratory, making it “an ideal test bed for biomedical, pharmaceutical, cellular and genetic research payloads.” Ellington Space Port would be in proximity to a number of customers, including NASA’s Johnson Spaceflight Center, the Houston Medical Center, and various universities and private businesses.