A project team is working to secure funding to conduct additional studies this year and to submit an application for a commercial landing license to the Federal Aviation Administration.
This follows a study last year that demonstrated the compatibility of landing the Dream Chaser on the airport’s existing runway and taxiway.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County hosted a workshop in the spring that was designed to tell the local business community more about the capabilities of the vehicle and also showcase Huntsville area companies to Sierra Nevada.
The community is well positioned to support the Dream Chaser because of its ongoing work with NASA, experience that is a good fit for the emerging commercial space industry, said Lucia Cape, the chamber’s senior vice president for economic development.
There is a long history of managing space payloads in flights, and currently all payloads on the International Space Station are monitored at Marshall Space Flight Center, she said.
Now, the goal is to identify business opportunities for local companies in support of landing the Dream Chaser, as well as payload development, operations and processing, vehicle maintenance and turnaround.
“The advantage the Huntsville community offers to any flight that lands here is the actual physical turnaround done at airport, as well as the processing of payloads,” she said. “We’re trying to find ways to leverage our existing assets and also find ways to grow our business community in emerging markets.”
SPACE STATION MISSIONS
It was during the Paris Air Show a year ago that Huntsville officials announced they had launched preliminary studies on the possibility of the Dream Chaser landing at the city’s airport.
The spaceplane launches on a rocket and lands on a runway, like the Space Shuttle. NASA has announced the vehicle as one of the spacecraft that will provide cargo delivery, return and disposal services on at least six missions to the International Space Station from 2019 to 2024.
The company also plans to operate the Dream Chaser on other missions for U.S. and international customers.
Along with the chamber, the project team working on the Dream Chaser landing includes the cities of Huntsville and Madison, Madison County, the Huntsville Airport Authority, Teledyne Brown Engineering, SNC and the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
NEW HUNTSVILLE FACILITY
Meanwhile, Sierra Nevada (SNC) is deepening its roots in North Alabama through another project. Earlier this year, the company broke ground on an aircraft modification and upgrade facility at the Madison County Executive Airport.
Construction is under way on the 130,000-square-foot facility, and it is expected to be complete early next year. Plans call for as many as 200 new jobs.
“We are excited to continue our successful partnership with U.S. Army Aviation, our strategic partners, and the local Huntsville community at large,” said Tim Owings, corporate vice president for Sierra Nevada’s Integrated Mission Systems business area.
“Huntsville is a hub for many of SNC’s key customers, including the U.S. Army. This aircraft modification and upgrade facility is representative of SNC’s continued commitment to the community and to Army aviation.”
The facility is being built in two phases. The first phase consists of a 30,000-square-foot hangar for aircraft modifications and upgrades supporting SNC programs currently in or near production.
The second phase, a 100,000-square-foot hangar, is being planned in preparation for future fixed- and rotary-wing support.
Sierra Nevada’s Huntsville facility has been in operation since 2012 and supports three of the company’s significant business areas: Integrated Mission Systems, Space Systems, and Communication, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management. Combined, Sierra Nevada’s locations in Huntsville and Hagerstown, Maryland, support about 600 employees, plus numerous other sub-contractors in Alabama.
Cape said the Huntsville community is happy to see Sierra Nevada thriving in all of its sectors locally.
“The company is growing in the Huntsville area in both its defense side and its space side, and we’re looking forward to helping them grow more,” she said.