Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dream Chasing

The Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser at the Dryden Flight Research Center in June 2013. Image source: NASA.

NASA issued a press release this afternoon announcing that a media event will be held Thursday at Kennedy Space Center to “discuss the company’s plans for expansion in the Kennedy area and the current status of the Dream Chaser program.”

The event will be held about six hours before the scheduled launch of the NASA TDRS-L communications satellite from Launch Pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Hopefully we'll finally learn where will be the Space Coast home of Dream Chaser. An early rumor was at one of the three former orbiter hangars outside the Vehicle Assembly Building, but OPF-1 and OPF-2 have been leased by Space Florida on behalf of the U.S. Air Force X-37B, and OPF-3 is leased by Space Florida on behalf of the Boeing CST-100 commercial crew vehicle.

Another popular rumor is Exploration Park on Space Commerce Road, which remains undeveloped nearly three years after the groundbreaking ceremony.

Dream Chaser reportedly will launch atop a Lockheed Martin Atlas V at Launch Complex 41, the same as Thursday's TDRS-L launch. It would seem logical that a servicing hangar would be located near the pad, so Exploration Park seems a bit far afield. A few former Titan-era facilities might be available along Titan III Road.

If you want a real dark horse rumor ... At one time it was rumored that United Launch Alliance (the Boeing-Lockheed Martin partnership) might be interested in joint use of KSC's Pad 39B with the rarely launching Space Launch System. Recent news reports suggest that no commercial users have come forward with a formal interest in 39B.

One could speculate that Dream Chaser could be stacked atop an Atlas V in the Vehicle Assembly Building's High Bay 1, then rolled out to Pad B on a refurbished Mobile Launch Platform and Transporter-Crawler. That would add a hideous overhead to their operating costs, so it seems unlikely. But you never know, maybe Sierra Nevada and ULA think finding a use for NASA's half-century old disused technology might give it an edge in the Commercial Crew downsize later this year.

Thursday should have an interesting afternoon.

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