Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC, Sparks, Nev., USA) announced on Jan. 23 that it has confirmed that the first orbital flight of its composites-intensive Dream Chaser Space System will occur on Nov. 1, 2016. Dream Chaser will be brought to orbit on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that is being built in Decatur, Ala., USA, and will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., USA.
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.
"Today's announcement is the latest major milestone in the transformation of the Kennedy Space Center into a 21st century launch complex, serving both private sector and government users," says NASA administrator Charles Bolden. "I salute Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana for his leadership in transitioning the space coast for the future, and applaud Sierra Nevada Corporation on their decision to carry out their ground-breaking work at Kennedy."
In addition to confirming the launch, SNC also highlighted its plans to employ the Operations and Checkout (O&C) facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The O&C facility will be used for 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.
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. 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.”