Thursday, July 7, 2011

NASA Signs KSC Deal with Sierra Nevada

An artist's concept of the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser.

A NASA press release today announced a deal has been reached with Sierra Nevada Corporation to "offer technical capabilities from [Kennedy Space Center's] uniquely skilled work force."

The umbrella space act agreement is Kennedy's latest step in its transition from a historically government-only launch complex to a multi-user spaceport ...

Kennedy will help Sierra Nevada with the ground operations support of its lifting body reusable spacecraft called "Dream Chaser," which resembles a smaller version of the space shuttle orbiter. The spacecraft would carry as many as seven astronauts to the space station.

Through the new agreement, Kennedy's work force will use its experience of processing the shuttle fleet for 30 years to help Sierra Nevada define and execute Dream Chaser's launch preparations and post-landing activities.

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

Sierra Nevada Executive Vice President Mark Sirangelo said his company is building its first Dream Chaser and expects to start testing it in 2012, with a nonorbital flight in 2013 followed by an orbital flight in 2014. The company expects to ferry astronauts to the space station or other orbiting destinations by 2015.

Sierra Nevada is negotiating with NASA for buildings it could use at KSC.

"In the long run, there will be a lot of job opportunities for support for the vehicle, and supply-chain opportunities, and the more flights we've got with this and any other vehicle, the more robust the economy will be," said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, the public-private agency designed to promote space-related economic development.

UPDATE July 8, 2011Florida Today reports on the Sierra Nevada deal:

"We have always planned to come down here, and we do plan to come down here to do our operations," said former NASA astronaut Jim Voss, the company's vice president of space exploration systems.

The Dream Chaser, which is based on a NASA design for a space station lifeboat, would re-land at KSC's three-mile runway just like the shuttle ...

Two test flights are scheduled in early 2015. The first would be an unpiloted, shakedown cruise to test all spacecraft systems in orbit. The second would be a piloted to the International Space Station.

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