NASA to Break Into Commercial Space Flight

July 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Whoever thought that NASA would be done with now that the Space Shuttle Atlantis had launched is dead wrong, as the American space agency is changing directions. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida entered into an agreement with Sierra Nevada Space Systems of Sparks, Nev., last week to offer technical capabilities from the center’s uniquely skilled work force.

“The partnership is an effort to bring new commercial space activities to the center and help transition Kennedy from a government, program-focused, single user launch complex to a diverse, multi-use spaceport, enabling both government and commercial space providers,” said Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana.

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.

In 2010 and 2011, Sierra Nevada was awarded grants as part of the initiative to stimulate the private sector in developing and demonstrating human spaceflight capabilities for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The goal of the program, which is based at Kennedy, is to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability by achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the space station and future low Earth orbit destinations.

“Our Dream Chaser vehicle was born at NASA, and NASA has continued to be an important partner in the vehicle’s development,” said Mark Sirangelo, head of SNSS. “By adding the Kennedy Space Center, with its highly experienced technical staff and world-class facilities, to the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Program we blend the best of both the NASA shuttle heritage alongside the best of industry practices.”

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