Sparks, Nevada. January 8, 2014. In a press conference today, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced the global expansion of the Dream Chaser Space System through recently finalized cooperative understandings with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
SNC will work with each agency on the potential application of European technologies to both the current Dream Chaser design, and advanced derivative versions of the vehicle. This international collaboration will also help define missions outside the Dream Chaser’s primary mission of ferrying U.S. and partner nation astronauts to low-Earth orbit, thereby helping to maintain the global space partnerships established between these agencies and the United States space program.
“Today marks a special day for SNC,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems. “With the start of these new relationships with ESA and DLR we are able to continue to expand the Dream Chaser Space System globally. The combined strengths of our partner space agencies, industrial companies and education institutions will significantly advance space education, exploration and, for various missions such as microgravity science, spacecraft servicing, debris removal, and materials manufacturing, provide economic benefits to all partners and strengthen U.S. and international ties.”
SNC’s Dream Chaser Space System is at the forefront of the commercial human spaceflight industry offering safe, reliable and cost-effective crew and critical cargo transportation services to low-Earth orbit. As the only lifting-body, low-g reentry spacecraft with the capability to land on commercial runways, anywhere in the world, Dream Chaser is uniquely adaptable to meet a variety of mission requirements.
When asked about the October landing incident during a test flight of the Dream Chaser spacecraft, Sirangelo said that it was, “A little bit like skinning our knees.” He added that the landing gear failure was traced to contamination in hydraulic fluid in the gear and that it was not an issue with the vehicle itself.
Sierra Nevada expects to hold further Dream Chaser test flights this year, first automated and then crewed. Automated orbital launches could begin in 2016, followed by crewed orbital missions as early as 2017.
The agreements with ESA and DLR are merely a framework for future collaboration, but they herald a bright future for Sierra Nevada Corporation. Although the company is currently busy on their next NASA commercial crew phase proposal, which is due in two weeks, Sirangelo states that he, “Fully expect[s] the program will continue regardless of what happens with NASA commercial crew competition.”