Sparks, Nev., Jan. 23, 2014 – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces that it has confirmed that the first orbital flight of its Dream Chaser® Space System will occur on November 1, 2016. Dream Chaser will be brought to orbit on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that is being built in Decatur, Alabama and will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
During SNC’s press event at the John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC), which was carried live on NASA TV, Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of Sierra Nevada Space Systems also unveiled the plans for Dream Chaser flight operations and vehicle processing in Florida through a detailed multi-part presentation.
Sirangelo started the announcement by saying, “SNC is thrilled to be the first company to confirm a launch date for our country’s return to orbital human spaceflight and the restart of human spaceflight operations from Florida’s Space Coast. We could not have done this without the spirit and engagement from our national and state governments, the best aerospace companies in the industry, and several major universities, which all hail from over 30 states. Together these passionate people will return our astronauts to space on American spacecraft and rockets launched from America’s space coast right here in Florida.”
“This is a great example of commercial companies working together to further America’s leadership in space,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Not only are NASA and the state of Florida forging new partnerships with the U.S. aerospace industry, we have created an environment where these companies can create partnerships with each other.”
“We have been diligent in our efforts, and I consider this a strong vote of confidence from a company that expects to be a major force in the future of human spaceflight,” said Bob Cabana, Kennedy center director. “Sierra Nevada Corporation will find in our workforce and facilities the same dynamic and professional people that have made successful missions from here for more than 50 years.” Cabana said SNC’s involvement with the Florida spaceport shows the conversion to a 21st Century spaceport is succeeding, although work remains to keep the transformation on pace. Also joining in the press conference were:
- Michael Gass, United Launch Alliance president and CEO
- Frank DiBello, Space Florida president and CEO
- Larry Price, Lockheed Martin Space Systems deputy program manager, NASA’s Orion spacecraft
- Steve Lindsey, Sierra Nevada Corporation senior director and Dream Chaser program manager
“We are honored that Sierra Nevada Corporation has reserved a proven Atlas V to launch its first flight test in 2016,” said Michael Gass, United Launch Alliance president and CEO. “With 42 successful missions spanning a decade of operational service, the commercially-developed Atlas V is uniquely qualified to provide launch services for the Crew Transportation System. Because Atlas is already certified by NASA to fly the nation’s most complex exploration missions, ULA is able to provide a wealth of flight data, design implementation, detailed system and sub-system analysis, qualification and certification documentation to support NASA certification of the Atlas V for human space flight.”
In addition to confirming the launch, SNC also highlighted its plans to employ the Operations and Checkout (O&C) facility at NASA’s KSC. The O&C facility will be used for both preparation of the reusable Dream Chaser spacecraft for its flights and post-mission testing for its next flight. The O&C is an historic facility for America’s space program, which was originally built to process Gemini and Apollo era spacecraft. After significant upgrades by NASA and the State of Florida, it is currently being used by Lockheed Martin Space Systems to develop, assemble and test NASA’s Orion spacecraft. James H. Crocker, Vice President and General Manager, Civil Space, Lockheed Martin Space Systems commented about the joint efforts, “The O&C is a state-of-the-art facility that will greatly enhance Dream Chaser’s future operations through an innovative co-use plan with Orion. The result will maximize efficiency for both Dream Chaser and Orion and will provide continuity for our highly trained, motivated and certified workforce.”
The third part of SNC’s announcement underscored Dream Chaser’s intended use of NASA’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). The SLF is an airport/spaceport located on Merritt Island in Brevard County, Fla. The SLF is part of KSC and was used by NASA’s Space Shuttle for landing until the program’s end in 2011. The facility is also used for takeoffs and landings for NASA training jets and civilian aircraft, such as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Frank DiBello, CEO of Space Florida, provided his view, “Today’s announcement by Sierra Nevada Corporation continues to verify a strong commercial interest in the SLF,” said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “It is clear that the future growth of commercial space is happening here in Florida and we couldn’t be happier to work with SNC to realize their Florida-based expansion goals.”
In closing, Steve Lindsey, SNC’s senior director and Dream Chaser program manager, added his final thoughts, “I had the privilege of piloting and commanding five Space Shuttle flights as a NASA astronaut. This included the last flight of Discovery which was processed, launched, and on March 9, 2011, made its final landing at the SLF after 39 flights and 148 million space miles. Mark, the entire SNC Dream Chaser team, and I look forward to seeing Dream Chaser continue this legacy from Discovery when it flies in 2016.”