Dream Chaser to Fly First U.N. Space Mission

Dream Chaser Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation

Dream Chaser
Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation

Sierra Nevada Corporation has announced an agreement to conduct the first ever United Nations sponsored space mission, which it plans to launch in 2021 using the Dream Chaser space plane. The flight, for which SNC and the U.N. are seeking sponsors, will be aimed at making space research opportunities available to non space-faring nations, many of whom would be directly participating in a space mission for the very first time.

The complete SNC press release is below.

Note: SNC has been relentless in its effort to carve out specific missions which highlight Dream Chaser’s unique abilities and what will almost certainly be overwhelming “curb appeal.” From its decision to land ISS cargo flights at Huntsville, Alabama, to its efforts to market the spacecraft for launch on both European and Japanese rockets, the company is covering new ground and deserves much credit.

From an outside perspective, it seems that the single weakness in the SNC business plan is the reliance on expensive, fully expendable boosters at a time when reusable first stages are coming into play. Much like SpaceX upon receiving its initial CRS-1 award, SNC now has the luxury of a guaranteed minimum number of flights under CRS-2 in which to work out the kinks while building a broader customer base. That being the case, the Atlas V rocket makes perfect sense as an extremely dependable booster which will not add any complications to the initial effort.

For all of those who hope to see a long and prosperous life for the plucky little space plane that refused to die, let us hope that before too long, SNC announces that it is in talks with a potential RLV operator for flights beginning in the 2020’s.

SPARKS, Nev. (September 27, 2016) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC)  and the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and have announced details of the first-ever United Nations space mission at the International Astronautical Congress  today in Guadalajara, Mexico. The dedicated Dream Chaser® Mission is targeted at providing developing countries the opportunity to develop and fly microgravity payloads for an extended duration in orbit; however, all United Nations Member States will be able to propose payloads for the mission.

Innovating for Positive Impact
“At SNC our goal is to pay it forward,” said Eren Ozmen, SNC’s owner and president. “That means leveraging the creation and success of our Dream Chaser spacecraft to benefit future generations of innovators like us all around the world.”

This announcement builds on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in June 2016 between UNOOSA and SNC to collaborate on this historic United Nations space mission. The first-ever United Nations space mission is intended to launch in 2021 and will allow United Nations Member States to participate in a 14-day flight to low-Earth orbit (LEO) on SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft.

“One of UNOOSA’s core responsibilities is to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space,” said Simonetta Di Pippo, director of UNOOSA. “I am proud to say that one of the ways UNOOSA will achieve this, in cooperation with our partner SNC, is by dedicating an entire microgravity mission to United Nations Member States, many of which do not have the infrastructure or financial backing to have a standalone space program.”

Making Space Affordable
According to Ms. Di Pippo, funding of the mission will come from multiple sources.  “We will continue to work closely with SNC to define the parameters of this mission which, in turn, will provide United Nations Member States with the ability to access space in a cost-effective and collaborative manner within a few short years. The possibilities are endless.”

Countries selected to provide mission payloads will be asked to pay a pro-rated portion of the mission cost, based on the resources required to host the payload and their ability to pay.  In addition, major sponsors are being sought to finance a large portion of the mission costs.

Path to Mission Launch
Over the next year, mission partners will conduct briefings to United Nations Member States and potential payload providers about the goals and framework of the mission and to solicit proposals for payloads.  To make the program more accessible to nations without a highly developed space industry, UNOOSA will offer technical support to countries that lack expertise or experience in developing microgravity payloads. Payloads will be selected in early 2018 to allow time for development and integration into the Dream Chaser spacecraft for launch expected in 2021.

SNC’s Dream Chaser is the only reusable, lifting-body, multi-mission-spacecraft capable of landing at commercial airports or spaceports able to accommodate large commercial aircraft – anywhere in the world. This offers the opportunity to land the United Nations mission in any licensed Member State supplying a payload on the mission. SNC is currently working with airports and spaceports to be granted a Federal Aviation Administration reentry license for  commercial Dream Chaser missions. Recently selected to provide cargo delivery, return and disposal services for the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract, Dream Chaser is a safe, affordable, flexible and reliable system capable of crewed and uncrewed transportation services to LEO destinations such as the ISS.

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  1. Is there any reason the Dreamchaser couldn’t be launched on some partly-reusable stack?

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