Colorado-built Dream Chaser inching closer to future landings in Florida after space missions

It’s built in Louisville but the Dream Chaser commercial space ship is creeping closer to an eventual landing on a storied runway in Florida, according to Sierra Nevada Corp.

On Monday, Sierra Nevada announced that federal aviation authorities have granted the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida a license to serve as a re-entry site for commercial spacecraft.

The facility at Kennedy Space Center was purpose-built to allow orbiting spacecraft to land on its runway. NASA space shuttles wrapped up 78 missions there before that program came to an end in 2011, according to Sierra Nevada.

Now, as Sierra Nevada preps the winged craft it had dubbed “America’s Spaceplane” for a planned 2022 flight to the International Space Station, the company is celebrating the prospect of future landings there.

“The opportunity for our spaceplane to land on this historic runway where so many shuttle missions did before underscores both the practical advantages of Dream Chaser and its time-honored place in NASA’s space exploration heritage,” company CEO Fatih Ozmen said in a statement.

Further approvals are required, according to Sierra Nevada. The company is still working with the Federal Aviation Administration to obtain licensing to operate Dream Chaser re-entries in Florida, the company said in Monday’s release.

During a preview event highlighting the craft at Sierra Nevada’s Louisville factory in 2019, representatives from the company talked about how the 30-foot-by-15-foot Dream Chaser was designed to ensure a smooth ride for cargo including materials from space station experiments.

Of course, it also designed to provide a smooth ride and landing for future astronauts.

“I was fortunate to land on this historic runway for my three NASA shuttle missions, and I understand how a spaceplane provides a safer and more benign entry experience for humans, as well as delicate payloads,” Sierra Nevada Space Systems executive and former astronaut Janet Kavandi said in a statement.

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