Alabama to Study Landing SNC’s Dream Chaser in Huntsville

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

PARIS, FRANCE (Alabama Governor’s Office PR) — Governor Robert Bentley on Monday announced plans to initiate a series of preliminary studies to assess the feasibility of landing Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser® spacecraft at Huntsville International Airport.

The announcement was the second one made Monday at the Paris Air Show, which Governor Bentley is not attending because of timing issues related to the end of the 2015 Legislative Session.

“Alabama has been a leader in the space industry since the beginning and it is natural that Alabama would continue to play a vital role in the continuation of space exploration,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “Having Dream Chaser land in Huntsville would further highlight Alabama as the premiere destination for innovative, high-tech careers and keep our state on the cutting edge of history.”

SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft is a multi-mission-capable space utility vehicle able to flexibly operate as an independent science platform, logistics enabler or orbital servicing vehicle. While SNC is currently competing for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract to supply cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), it also plans to operate the vehicle on other missions, tailored to a variety of U.S. and international customers. The Dream Chaser spacecraft operates similarly to the Space Shuttle, in that it launches vertically atop a rocket, and lands horizontally on a runway. However, the Dream Chaser spacecraft is the only reusable, lifting-body spacecraft with a commercial runway landing capability, anywhere in the world. Significantly smaller than the Space Shuttle, and is able to land on any runway that can accommodate a Boeing 737 or Airbus 320 class aircraft. The use of non-toxic propellants combined with an innovative concept of operations allows immediate access to payloads and crew upon landing. In addition, the Dream Chaser spacecraft can be easily transported from landing site to launch site using a variety of standard cargo aircraft.

“For decades, Alabama’s Rocket City has been at the epicenter of groundbreaking space exploration technology,” Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce said. “Having the Dream Chaser spacecraft touch down at the Huntsville International Airport after a cargo mission to space would be a fitting new chapter in that ongoing story.”

The preliminary studies will assess environmental factors such as airspace, traffic flow, potential impacts to commercial air traffic and the compatibility of SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft with the existing runway and taxiway environments at Huntsville International Airport, a public use airport.

If preliminary assessments are successful, a second phase of work may begin in late 2015, which could result in the issuance of a re-entry license from the Federal Aviation Administration to land the Dream Chaser spacecraft in Huntsville. The Huntsville International Airport would be the first commercial service airport to acquire the permission and ability to accommodate Dream Chaser spacecraft landings whether on missions to the ISS, or other destinations in low-Earth orbit.

The first studies will be performed by Teledyne Brown Engineering, with support from RS&H Aerospace and Morell Engineering, based in Athens, Alabama.