August 24, 2017 – Huntsville/Madison County is another step closer to landing a space vehicle at the Huntsville International Airport in Alabama. The Airport has signed a contract to apply for licensing through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to land Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft on one of its commercial runways.
This Phase II contract follows a Phase I contract completed in 2015 that examined the compatibility of SNC’s Dream Chaser with the existing runway and taxiway environments at the Airport.
“The preliminary study proved the feasibility of landing so now we are pleased to announce that we have initiated the permitting process with the FAA,” said Rick Tucker, executive director of the Huntsville International Airport. “This is much more than an economic development project that will bring additional business to the airport and the community. This represents a shared vision of Huntsville as a leader in the commercial space economy as the first community to make a commitment to this vehicle and its role in space commerce.”
Local and State support for this project includes funding for the contracts and marketing of the community’s assets that support landing the Dream Chaser in Huntsville. Teledyne Brown Engineering serves as the prime contractor, with subcontracts to be issued to Sierra Nevada Corporation and RS&H. Partners with the Airport include the City of Huntsville, Madison County, the City of Madison, the State of Alabama, UAH and the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.
“We’re excited to continue our progress in this community-wide effort to land the Dream Chaser in Huntsville,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “This initiative fits well with our expertise and portfolio as a hub for the fast growing commercial space industry.”
“Madison County is excited to move to the next step in bringing Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser to the Huntsville International Airport,” said Madison County Commission Chairman Dale W. Strong. “Working to secure this permit through the FAA will allow this spacecraft to return to Earth’s orbit and land at Huntsville International Airport in Madison County, Alabama, home to Marshall Space Flight Center, The University of Alabama Huntsville, and HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.”
Phase II is expected to take at least 24 months. While the permits are being sought, the partners will be working to share the capabilities of the Dream Chaser with potential users while marketing the workforce and expertise of the Huntsville region to support payload design, development, integration, operations and processing. All science payloads aboard the International Space Station are managed by Marshall Space Flight Center at the Payload Operations and Integration Center (POIC) on Redstone Arsenal. The POIC has been in 24/7 operation since 2001, with hundreds of scientific experiments being completed each year.
“We are very excited to be working with Huntsville as the first commercial airport that will apply for an FAA permit to land Dream Chaser after an orbital mission. We feel that the ability to land a space mission on a commercial runway anywhere in the world is a big advantage of our vehicle and will bring space up close and personal to thousands of people who can come out and see the landings. This will put us in the forefront of commercial space activities and it is no surprise that ‘Rocket City’ is the first to join us on that journey,” said John Roth, vice president of business development for SNC’s Space Systems business area.
“Huntsville is perfectly positioned geographically, economically and possesses an experienced workforce that is committed to making our city the key location for this significant effort,” said Jan Hess, president of Teledyne Brown Engineering. “Our company is proud to be leading an effort that showcases all that our community has to offer.”
One marketing effort underway is the Chamber’s sponsorship of a contest with the European Space Agency (ESA). With Scottish aerospace company Astrosat, the Chamber is seeking ideas for utilizing the Dream Chaser beyond cargo transport. Entries are being accepted until September 8 at www.space-exploration-masters.com. The prize includes business development support from Astrosat, a visit to Huntsville/Madison County, and a year’s worth of business incubation at BizTech. The winner will be announced in October during the Space Tech Expo in Bremen, Germany, at the Huntsville/Madison County booth.
“The ESA competition has given us an international platform for sharing the space-related capabilities of Huntsville/Madison County,” said Lucia Cape, senior vice president of economic development for the Chamber. “We look forward to seeing what entrepreneurs from around the world would do with a Dream Chaser spacecraft, and we want to let them know that they can land it here.”
Sierra Nevada Corporation was awarded a cargo resupply contract with NASA in 2016. Earlier this year, SNC announced that its first two missions would be launched on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, made in Decatur, Alabama.