SNC, Huntsville Alabama Embark on Dream Chaser Airport-Landing Studies
[Via Satellite 06-15-2015] Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and a consortium of partners are evaluating the feasibility of landing the Dream Chaser spacecraft at Huntsville International Airport. The announcement, made at both the 2015 Paris Air Show and at a press conference in Huntsville Ala., brings together a team that will determine what steps are necessary to make the Northern Alabama airport into a spaceport as well.
SNC’s Dream Chaser is a multipurpose spacecraft capable of conducting a variety of missions in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) through both crewed and uncrewed missions. The vehicle can perform in-orbit servicing, including satellite relocation and repair, can ferry cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), and can function as an independent science platform. SNC has multiple variants of Dream Chaser under development to serve different missions that can launch atop a rocket and land horizontally on a runway.
“This has been close to a year-long project to get to this point,” said Steve Haraway, Madison County Commissioner, during a June 15 press conference. “After phase one of the study has been completed, the second phase will be to acquire the reentry license from the [U.S. Federal Aviation Administration] FAA that will allow the Dream Chaser spacecraft to land at Huntsville International Airport. This will allow missions from space or the ISS that need to go to Marshall Spaceflight Center, or companies like HudsonAlpha to be delivered in a more timely manner.”
The team working together with SNC to validate Dream Chaser activity at Huntsville International Airport is comprised of the City of Huntsville, Madison County, the City of Madison, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Teledyne Brown Engineering, the State of Alabama, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority. Teledyne Brown Engineering will lead the first studies, with RS&H Aerospace and Morell Engineering providing assistance.
As a reusable, lifting-body spacecraft, Dream Chaser is able to land on any runway that can accommodate a Boeing 737 or Airbus 320 class aircraft. Furthermore, the vehicle’s use of non-toxic propellants and accompanying operations procedures enable immediate access to payloads and crew upon landing. According to Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, approving Dream Chaser to land at Huntsville International Airport would make it the first public airport to land an orbital vehicle on the same runway where commercial airline flights land and take off.
“Dream Chaser gives us many, many commercial opportunities and possibilities of industries that will happen in the future, and that starts today with these studies,” he said.
SNC is currently competing Dream Chaser for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract to supply cargo to the ISS. Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems, told Via Satellite in March that winning the bid would lead to a first flight in 2018. CRS missions carry supplies such as food and water, along with experiments, ISS equipment, and small satellites to the ISS. SNC also has another extended study with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to further developmental work as well as to identify new technologies to advance the vehicle’s applications.
Rose Allen, chair elect of the chamber of commerce of Huntsville-Madison county, and a principal at Booze Allen Hamilton, said the Huntsville International Airport studies will assess environmental factors such as airspace, traffic flow, potential impacts to commercial air traffic, and the compatibility of Dream Chaser with the existing runway and taxiway environment. Successful completion of preliminary assessments would initiate pursuit of an FAA reentry license.