This week, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced a call for interest from participating UN Member States to fly 20-30 powered experiments on a future low-Earth orbit (LEO) mission on SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft.
“The benefits of a joint mission between government and private organizations on a level of this scale are incalculable,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area.
SNC holds a multi-billion dollar Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-2) program contract with NASA to resupply the International Space Station from 2019-2024 with a cargo-only version of Dream Chaser, and although the spacecraft has yet to fly in space, a lot of progress is being made towards its inaugural launch atop a ULA Atlas-V rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. in 2019.
An engineering test article of the Dream Chaser is now in “Phase Two” flight testing at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base, CA, and recently conducted a successful “Captive Carry” test while attached to a Chinook helicopter, which carried it to the same altitude and flight conditions it will experience when released on an upcoming Free Flight test later this year (after a second Captive Carry test is conducted first).
SNC put their test article through its first free flight approach and landing test three years ago, but the vehicle made a hard landing when only two of its three gear deployed, causing it to skid off the runway and sustaining minor damage.
Significant structural and systems improvements have been made to the test article since, and SNC is confident Dream Chaser will fly its first mission for NASA within the next two years.
The Call for Interest from UNOOSA particularly encourages developing and emerging countries to submit entries to be considered for the future 2-3 week mission, but offers few other details other than it will orbit at an altitude of about 500km and an inclination between 0 and 40 degrees.
“This is about scientific discovery, and about opening space to organizations that may not have access to it otherwise,” said Eren Ozmen, owner and President of SNC. “We’re thrilled to provide the vehicle that will make this happen.”
The rocket, launch site, date and landing location is yet to be determined (Dream Chaser will be capable of launching on several types of rockets).
“A key aspect of the mission is to provide training and facilitate development of technology, in particular for developing countries,” states SNC. “The access to space and application of this technology, along with the overall growth of industry, are a part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”
“We expect our efforts in building industry capacity to have long-term impacts, especially in space-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs, and that these results will flow to the wider economy as a whole,” said Simonetta Di Pippo, director of UNOOSA. “We are here to support developing and emerging countries and institutions so that this mission can really enable inclusive access to space for all and contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The deadline for submission is Nov. 1, 2017.