Sierra Nevada Offers Commercial Orbital Service


Sierra Nevada Corporation has unveiled a smaller version of its Dream Chaser space plane designed to be launched to low earth airport by Paul Allen and Burt Rutan’s Stratolaunch system. The scaled version of Dream Chaser will carry three astronauts or it can be flown as a space UAS carrying cargo only. The Stratolaunch vehicle will take off from a runway carrying a booster with the space plane aboard and fly well above the flight levels for launch. The space plane can be recovered on regular runways anywhere in the world. The details will be announced at the 65th International Astronautical Congress in Toronto Wednesday. The news comes a few days after Sierra Nevada announced it would protest being shut out of NASA’s plans for future manned space flight services.

Sierra Nevada was one of three contenders to supply NASA’s future orbital launch needs but NASA announced that Boeing and SpaceX would get the work. Sierra Nevada is alleging there were “inconsistencies” in the selection process NASA used. It says the space plane system will be cheaper and safer than the capsule style vehicles planned by SpaceX and Boeing. Boeing said NASA did an exhaustive analysis of the three options and called its Commercial Crew Transport vehicle a “best-value and reliable solution.” NASA now contracts with Russia to get its astronauts to the International Space Station, a business arrangement that is jeopardized by increasing political tensions with Russia.