According to a recent press release from Sierra Space, NASA''s Dream Chaser space plane may have established another landing site for its future flights to space and back.
On Tuesday, the spaceship manufacturer signed a memorandum of agreement (MOU) with Spaceport America, which means that the Dream Chaser may make landings at the New Mexico facility once it completes its orbital trips.
Dream Chaser will offer NASA a third way of transporting cargo to the ISS.
The agreement does not necessarily mean that the Dream Chaser will make landings there, but it brings the two firms closer in their "mutual pursuit" of a viable reentry license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make touchdowns in the Dream Chaser in New Mexico.
According to a press release, the FAA has given its approval for the space planet to land at the Huntsville International Airport in Alabama. Spaceport American''s potential landing site for the Dream Chaser will "continue to... open up affordable access to space," according to Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice.
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There is still a clear timeline for when and how landings will be made at Spaceport America. NASA has asked Sierra Nevada to begin its Dream Chaser flights with at least six uncrewed cargo trips to the International Space Station (ISS). These flights will start using the United Launch Alliance''s Vulcan Centaur rockets at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
According to the release, NASA''s old space shuttle runway, which is located at the Kennedy Space Center''s launch and landing facility in Florida, is another landing site for the Dream Chaser. However, there are other possibilities: the space plane may fly to Oita Airport in Japan, or even the United Kingdom''s Spaceport Cornwall.
Public-private partnerships between NASA and NASA are fundamentally changing space travel, for a long time.
Sierra Space initially thought to use Dream Chaser as crewed flights to lift astronauts to the ISS, but NASA chose SpaceX''s (and Boeing''s to be fair to the Artemis'' SLS rocket), for human missions. However, Sierra Space would not transport humans to space because it might build a crewed version of its space plane if other individuals demonstrate interest.
NASA sends cargo to the ISS via rockets supplied by Northrop Grumman and Elon Musk''s SpaceX. And the latter''s Dragon capsule can return experiments (and human astronauts) to Earth with full re-entry capabilities. Once Dream Chaser is fully operational, NASA will have a third method of domestically lofting precious cargo to assist the scientific and commercial initiatives that will continue on the ISS at least, until it''s retired and deorbited.
Even during NASA''s first golden age of the Apollo missions, there were never such many disparate ways to send scientific cargo and experiments to space on so many private vehicles. One wonders how space travel will look if SpaceX''s Falcon 9, Super Heavy, and Starship launch vehicles pull ahead of Blue Origin''s New Shepard, leaving NASA behind as it continues preparations for the first launch. But these are the days that will influence the human future.