At a news conference at the Kennedy Space Center today, Sierra Nevada Corporation announced that it has contracted with United Launch Alliance for an automated test flight of its Dream Chaser space plane to take place aboard at Atlas V 402 in November of 2016. According to SNC CEO Mark Sirangelo, the flight is not contingent on the receipt of any further funding in the next phase of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, and represents a direct transaction between his company and United Launch Alliance. Significantly it marks the first officially announced orbital flight of a commercial crew vehicle.
In addition to the test flight and a second, undated flight which is expected to carry a test crew, SNC announced that it has reached an agreement with Lockheed Martin to perform both pre and post flight processing in the west end of the KSC’s Operations and Checkout Facility which is currently preparing the first Orion spacecraft for a test flight later aboard a Delta IV Heavy later this year. The latter agreement would appear to mark an even closer relationship between SNC and Lockheed Martin, one which is already highlighted by the two Dream Chaser flight articles currently under construction at LockMart’s Michoud Louisiana facility.
The full press release from SNC is here: