SNC, Boeing and SpaceX Ready Vehicles for Launch

The three participants in NASA’s Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) SpaceX, Sierra Nevada and Boeing are pictured in this image. Image Credit: AmericaSpace/SNC/Boeing

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—Both Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and The Boeing Company have tasked United Launch Alliance (ULA) to launch their commercial spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

ULA, who operates SLC-41, was tasked with outfitting the launch pad with equipment and systems to support crewed launches within the next five years.

Both Boeing and SNC have tapped United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V launch vehicle to send their spacecraft into orbit. Photo Credit: Alan Walters /

Formed in 2006, ULA is a joint venture between Lockheed-Martin and The Boeing Company. They use expendable launch vehicles such as the Atlas V and Delta IV to launch payloads for not just NASA, but the Department of Defense and the National Reconnaissance Office as well.

ULA’s Atlas V family of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles, has achieved 100 percent mission success since their debut in August 2002. Two commercial space firms have selected the Atlas V as the rocket of choice to launch their human-rated spacecraft. They are The Boeing Co.’s CST-100 and Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser.

The current focus of SNC’s commercial efforts is the Dream Chaser Space System, a winged, piloted orbital commercial spacecraft.

With the goal of getting to the International Space Station, SNC is working with NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo office (known as C3PO) to develop the Dream Chaser to be able to transport up to seven crew members and cargo to the International Space Station and back to Earth again.

Based on NASA’s HL-20 design, the Dream Chaser won two NASA Commercial Crew Development awards totaling $100 million.

NASA hopes that by turning over the responsibility of providing acces to low-Earth-orbit that the space agency can focus on sending humans to destinations beyond Earth orbit. Image Credit: NASA

Another company to provide commercial crew transportation services is The Boeing Co. Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company. Boeing Defense, Space and Security division handles the creation of most space-based platforms.

Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation CST-100 spacecraft is a capsule-based design that can also carry seven astronauts. It is being designed under an $18 million Commercial crew Development Space Act Agreement with NASA. Like the Dream Chaser, its purpose is to support the International Space Station, but Boeing’s offering has also been selected by the Bigelow Aerospace to support the private space firm’s inflatable space habitats. The CST-100 would be able to launch on a several rockets, including the selected Atlas V.

SLC- 41 is being modified to accommodate the two different spacecraft by ULA and the recently selected Hensel Phelps Construction Company of Orlando, Fla. They are outfitting SLC-41 with equipment and systems to support the crewed launches within the next five years.

The Dream Chaser model with its Atlas V launch vehicle undergoing final preparations. Photo Credit: NASA

This includes designing and developing the tower and crew access arm to allow boarding onto both vehicles.A third commercial firm, Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, will be launching on their own rocket – the Falcon 9. SpaceX has already traveled to the ISS twice. This makes SpaceX the current leader in the commercial race for space.

With the space shuttle program decommissioned, NASA, in partnership with the private sector, is working to follow the words of Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, at the National Press Club on July 1, 2011 with ongoing efforts to make “American leadership in space” continue.


  1. This article should have been headlined: “ULA Gets Pad 41-C Ready” since the pad is in the very early design stages to support two vehicles that also are in the design phase. You cannot say that they are getting vehicles, which don’t even exist yet, ready for flight. And the crewed Dragon is also not ready to fly but when it is won’t it go from pad 40 like the cargo version?
    Now we hope that DreamChaser actually is completed but they do not currently even have the funding to do that.
    And the changes to pad 41-C have not been finalized, so your article is also not accurate.

    • The title “ULA Gets Pad 41-C Ready,” first of all would not tell me anything about the article if I didn’t know anything about the space industry. Second of all, your proposed title is not one that grabs attention. In addition, the current title definitely generates interest and further inquiry.

      • May I take this comment as a chance to leap up on my soapbox about the current state of journalism? Aren’t we accustomed to attention grabbing headlines, often mentioning the Kardashians, Michael Jackson, or someone infamous?
        This is an attempt to point out that headlines are really important and frequently the most inaccurate or sensationalist ones attract attention. The problem is that, if you start reading thinking that the story will be about your interest, etc – you are disappointed. How many people dismiss major news sources, saying that they are all info-tainment and sensationalist stories? Too often, they especially stoop low for headlines.
        And this is a group that thrives on detail, someone reading “AmericaSpace” likely has some interest and knowledge.

        • While the current state of journalism is up for debate, the truth of the matter is that we are bombarded with too much information and need attention generating headlines in order to filter our enormous amount of information that is abailable to us daily. The headline you proposed may be of interest to only a small demographic. The point of any site is to reach out to a wider audience not only to the small demographic of industry insiders.

  2. If both of you actually read the article and not skim through it….then you would realize that the article clearly states the craft is in the development state. If you decide to continue reading, common sense would lead you to understand that all of the other information provided is the future plan of what would most likely happen if all went according to plan. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out, but then again common sense isn’t always so common.

    • Then perhaps (at least) the headline should not read: “SNC, Boeing and SpaceX Ready Vehicles for Launch”. As if flight units were in processing.

    • Some of us did read it carefully – that is what motivated our comments. For instance, SNC has not tasked ULA to launch, they do plan on it but it is far from a done deal. The SNC vehicle has not even been completely developed yet.

  3. We understand that any comment except “great article!” will likely be taken as a personal attack in today’s environment. As a writer myself – we have to develop very thick skins!!! And you have to read your own stories and ask yourself how people will take what you have written.
    In this case, the headline is just not accurate. The story has some good information but it leads the reader to make the wrong conclusions.
    Now, it is much better than most of the “journalism” on even major news sites today!! Journalism today is not much better than the muckraking advocacy journalism of the early 1900s. Sigh.
    Still, as a writer myself – at least Ms Brown knows that people have read her story and are talking about it. And it is very valuable to have people read your story and point out errors – though it is not pleasant.

  4. Charles,

    Thank you for your very thoughtful response. We actually appreciate constructive criticism (which is what you provided here). Ms. Brown is a highly-skilled writer who has just started covering the space program, as such some her words might not exactly capture the nuances involved with the space industry. We have no doubt that she will be there soon however.

    We don’t take your comment as an attack at all, rather we take it as helpful advice that will allow us to provide you with a better product.

    Sincerely and with thanks, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace

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