Tuskegee University Joins Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser Team

Dr. Johnson, President, Tuskegee University and Mark Sirangelo, Corp. VP, sign Letter of Cooperation. Image Source: Tuskegee University.

Dr. Johnson, President, Tuskegee University and Mark Sirangelo, Corp. VP, sign Letter of Cooperation. Image Source: Tuskegee University.

Tuskegee, Alabama. July 24, 2014 – Tuskegee University (TU) and Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Systems signed a Letter of Cooperation today. The purpose of this relationship is to jointly promote aerospace engineering education, research, and development, scientific exploration and recruitment and training of a diverse workforce.

Tuskegee University is now a university partner with SNC on the Dream Chaser program. SNC will support research projects for Tuskegee University faculty and students to advance the technical design of SNC’s Dream Chaser. These projects are expected to create internships and future job opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and non-STEM disciplines for Tuskegee University students. The University already has one of only two centers funded by NASA to develop a technology for growing food in space during human space missions.

SNC will begin lectures at Tuskegee University on the future of our nation’s space program to provide insight into the industry’s most exciting developments. Tuskegee University faculty will join SNC’s Space Systems Dream Chaser Program Advisory Board to provide critical feedback on SNC’s plans for human space flight activities. SNC will support the academic activities of Tuskegee University at large, in addition to the Department of the Aerospace Science Engineering, through membership on the Industrial Advisory Board of the Department.

Honors Tuskegee’s past

Tuskegee president, Dr. Brian L. Johnson, said, “I have begun my time as president by asking all involved with the university to trust the Tuskegee tradition and trust the Tuskegee trajectory. This new relationship with SNC highlights the long celebrated history of Tuskegee in aerospace while also opening up future possibilities for our students to experience the trajectory of America’s new path to space.”

Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems, presented the university with a special “Red Tails” version of the Dream Chaser space vehicle model. The red and gold stickers on the model’s wingtips are a nod to the planes that the Tuskegee Airmen flew in World War II. While outlining the partnership with Tuskegee, Sirangelo referenced several events from the past including first lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s plane ride with famed Airman, Alfred “Chief” Anderson, and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. He used them as examples of acts that paved the way to a new destiny.

“We believe that respecting the past is the key to the future,” Sirangelo said.

Red and gold stickers on the model’s wingtips are a nod to the planes that the Tuskegee Airmen flew in World War II. Image Source: Tuskegee University

Red and gold stickers on the model’s wingtips are a nod to the planes that the Tuskegee Airmen flew in World War II. Image Source: Tuskegee University

Creates future job opportunities

SNC will support research projects for Tuskegee University faculty and students to advance the technical design of SNC’s Dream Chaser. These projects are expected to create internships and future job opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and non-STEM disciplines for Tuskegee University students. Dr. Legand Burge, dean of the College of Engineering, hailed the signing as a way to quickly engage Tuskegee’s current and prospective students.

“This is a great opportunity for SNC to capture [the students’] attention and get them in place,” Burge said of the collaboration. “Because we know SNC is going to need the talent.”

Dr. Javed Khan, head of the Aerospace Engineering Department, said that the agreement is a testament to Tuskegee and the College of Engineering being committed to excellence. The department has graduated the largest number of black aerospace engineers in the nation. He also said the collaboration will further strengthen the aerospace engineering program and it is always his department’s “endeavor to bring state-of-the art technology to our students.”

SNC’s flagship program, the Dream Chaser, is a next generation space transportation system. The company hopes that this spacecraft will be used to transport astronauts and cargo to and from low Earth orbit destinations, including the International Space Station. The company’s technology could be used for industrial and space tourism purposes.