Sierra Nevada Corporation and Houston Airport System Announce New Agreement

Dream Chaser landing at Ellington Field. (Cedit: SNC)
Dream Chaser landing at Ellington Field. (Cedit: SNC)

SPARKS, Nev. (March 24, 2015) – Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Systems and the Houston Airport System (HAS) announce a new follow-on agreement to utilize Ellington Airport’s Spaceport as a future landing site for SNC’s Uncrewed Dream Chaser® spacecraft – SNC’s solution for NASA’s Cargo Resupply needs and other critical space operations.

“Entering into this new agreement with HAS will lead to enabling all variants of the Dream Chaser spacecraft to land in Houston, offering the ability to return cargo and science to Houston directly from space,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems. “Through this agreement, we want to promote broad awareness of the importance of utilizing low-Earth orbit as a source of research, science and the expansion of space flight that are critical to Houston’s ongoing position as a ‘Space City.’ Houston has earned its place at the forefront of space exploration with such institutes as NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Rice Space University, the Texas Medical Center, the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and many other organizations.”

The objectives of this new agreement include exploring the applications and opportunities between HAS and SNC utilizing the Uncrewed Dream Chaser spacecraft to serve the needs of government, science, research, consumer and commercial enterprise while also building awareness of the positive economic impact of the Ellington Airport/Spaceport to the state of Texas. The new agreement is in anticipation of HAS receiving its spaceport license approval for Ellington Airport.

“The Houston Airport System is pleased to continue working with Sierra Nevada Corporation as a landing site for their Dream Chaser spacecraft,” said Arturo Machuca, general manager, Ellington Airport. “As we move into the final phase of receiving our spaceport license it is important that HAS work with private industry to ensure the sustainability of the Houston Spaceport. The Dream Chaser spacecraft, with its unique horizontal runway landing capability, low-g entry and use of non-toxic propulsion, makes it an ideal test bed for biomedical, pharmaceutical, cellular and genetic research payloads. Houston, a leader in space-based biomedical research, is eager to work with SNC to sustain and advance these research opportunities in low-Earth orbit, then gently return them directly to Houston for immediate unloading.”

The Dream Chaser Cargo System is an autonomous system developed to provide cargo transportation services to the International Space Station (ISS). The Dream Chaser Cargo Systems is a mission variant of the Dream Chaser Space System that exceeds NASA’s goals for cargo transportation to the ISS, including rapid return of critical science.

About Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems business area based in Louisville, Colorado, designs and manufactures advanced spacecraft, space vehicles, rocket motors and spacecraft subsystems and components for the U.S. Government, commercial customers, as well as for the international market.  SNC’s Space Systems has more than 25 years of space heritage and has participated in over 400 successful space missions through the delivery of over 4,000 systems, subsystems and components.  During its history, SNC’s Space Systems has concluded over 70 programs for NASA and over 50 other clients. For more information about SNC’s Space Systems visit www.sncspace.com and follow us at Facebook.com/SNCSpaceSystems and Twitter @SNCspacesystems.

About Sierra Nevada Corporation
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), headquartered in Sparks, Nevada, is among the “World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Space.” Over the last 30 years, under the leadership of President Eren Ozmen and CEO Fatih Ozmen, SNC has become one of America’s fastest-growing private companies and the Top Woman-Owned Federal Contractor in the United States. With a workforce of over 3,000 personnel in 31 locations in 17 states and three locations in Europe, SNC has a reputation for rapid, innovative, and agile technology solutions in electronics, aerospace, avionics, space, propulsion, micro-satellite, aircraft, communications systems and solar energy.

SNC has six unique business areas that are dedicated to providing leading-edge solutions to its dynamic customer base. SNC has a proven track record of success spanning more than five decades. It is focused on providing its customers with the very best in diversified technologies and continues to focus its growth on the commercial sector through internal advancements in dual-use applications and outside acquisitions including the emerging markets of telemedicine, Cyber and net-centric operations.

For more information on SNC visit www.sncorp.com and follow us at Facebook/Sierra Nevada Corporation. Sierra Nevada Corporation and SNC are trademarks of Sierra Nevada Corporation.

About Houston Airport System
The Houston Airport System (HAS) consists of three individual airport facilities, which collectively represent a $27.5 billion economic impact to the Houston region.  Through commercial air service at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), air passengers in the nation’s fourth-largest city have nonstop flight access to more than 170 destinations worldwide.  Handling more than 50 million passengers on an annual basis, HAS stands as one of the busiest airport systems operating anywhere in the world connecting the City of Houston on a global scale.

Ellington Airport (EFD), located within 15 minutes of downtown Houston, is a joint-use facility handling both general aviation operations and flights involving the United States military, the Department of Homeland Security and NASA.  Ellington Airport already supports more than 10,000 Houston-area jobs and carries an annual economic impact of $641 million.  That impact is set to become even stronger in the future, as the Houston Airport System moves forward in its drive to establish Ellington Airport as the tenth licensed spaceport in the United States.  With ample acreage available for business development, a strong cluster of aerospace companies already in the area and a robust transportation network, Ellington Airport has all the requirements necessary to establish a dynamic commercial spaceport.

  • windbourne

    LOL.
    What a joke.
    There are really only 2 places that it is rational for DC to land at:
    Kennedy on the old space shuttle’s runway,
    OR Front Range Airport in Colorado where it will be built.

    My guess is that this is designed to get ppl like cruz on-board and to get him to stop trying to kill off private space.

  • Gary Church

    Not a joke. It does not have the toxic propellents that restricted the shuttle. The Dream Chaser actually has a pretty good chance of becoming real not because of any commercial application- the military is likely to one day simply announce they need it. Don’t ask why- they will tell you that’s classified. Surprise, surprise.

  • windbourne

    if a military flight, then again, Houston will not happen.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    I just can’t see the FAA allowing a large unmanned glider to operate in Houston’s airspace.

  • Gary Church

    If it has fuel to do a single missed approach and go around they would probably grant a waiver to land at the NASA facility. Lot’s of weird planes fly out of and land there.

  • windbourne

    DC is not a plane. It is a glider.

  • Gary Church

    Being a glider pilot, I understand that. It has rocket engines that might allow it to go around the pattern once if it misses an approach- unlike the shuttle which was high drama and had to thread the needle every time. As with any un-powered glider, every landing was an emergency landing for the shuttle.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    As a glider pilot, you know that DC would have the right of way over powered aircraft but would still have the responsibility to “see and avoid” potential conflicts. Being unmanned and operated either remotely by humans or by computer, it is unlikely to have the capability to alter its flight path to avoid conflicts. Just being a glider is not disqualifying but lacking the capability to alter its flight path to safely avoid an unanticipated hazard may very well give the FAA pause.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    They already have one. It is called the X-37.

  • Gary Church

    Well, my glider pilot cred boast is not all that impressive considering I fly paragliders. I am not advocating or saying DC will be landing at airports anytime soon so you I think you are correct and even understating. I do not even think the mass penalty for wings, airframe, and landing gear is worth it. Some things just cannot be improved on and with half the planet covered in water a couple hundred pounds of parachute and floats cannot be beat as a way to return from space. I feel the same way about the tractor escape tower. That said, as I pointed out, if DC has enough fuel to do a short burn and gain enough altitude for a go around that might contribute to the FAA allowing it to operate is some very special arrangement. And never underestimate the power of a billionaire who wants to fly to anywhere on Earth in an hour.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    I’m not sure that carrying enough fuel for a single go-around would convince the FAA to allow DC to mix with commercial and general aviation traffic. If someone comes up with a vehicle that can make a powered approach and landing the FAA would probably be more receptive. I think DC can definitely have a place in the scheme but should be allowed to land only away from urban or heavy-traffic areas.

  • Gary Church

    Kind of hard to stuff a human in one. They might come up with a requirement for a human-crewed vehicle. The defense industry wants nothing to do with that- it cuts into their profit margin having to human-rate something- but sometimes the General or Admiral get’s his or her way. The shuttle did not work out for them but they have more money than NASA so they will try again. Why would they need a human up there? Don’t ask, they will tell you that’s classified.

  • Gary Church

    Roger that.

  • duheagle

    If SNC actually substitutes Orbitec liquid engines for the legacy
    SpaceDev hybrids, you could well be right. Higher ISP means less propellant mass needed to de-orbit, thus the possibilty of carrying enough for some in-atmosphere maneuvering in a pinch.

    I think the main reason for this deal, though, is to underscore just how close DC might be able to bring time-critical downmass to NASA’s “front door” (Johnson Space Center). This is a not-so-subtle dig at SpaceX, which will continue, at least for some time, splashing down in the Pacific and making a slow boat ride back to port with ISS downmass.

  • Gary Church

    I disagree (though you could be right): I would say the main reason is the possibility some Billionaire would pay to fly to Europe or Asia in an hour- and back. There is no “downmass” worth a dime. In 40 years of space station experiments not a single valuable microgravity product has ever been identified.

  • duheagle

    You and I might well agree about the value of much of the downmass actually returned, but the fact still remains that NASA would like to see it in their hands ASAP and this DC-to-Houston deal is a way of giving the customer – NASA – what it says it wants.

  • Gary Church

    That anyone agrees with me on these forums is rare. I am so burned out on the standard NewSpace Ayn-Rand-in-Space libertarian propaganda- which often includes the word customer- that I flinch when I read it. Sick of the screaming cheap anti-government argument and dollars being all that supposedly matter. It’s garbage. Musk and his damn cult is the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration. The entire NewSpace business plan of space tourism, inferior lift hobby rockets, and LEO depots is a dead end and I thoroughly despise the foul mouth creeps on these forums that endlessly lie and shill.