For a while, it looked like mega-bazillionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic would be the first company to get privately funded spaceflight successfully into space with crews and passengers, but not even a recent successful test flight can whitewash the constant delays that Virgin has suffered. Elon Musk’s SpaceX appears it will be the frontrunner, geared up for a 2015 launch. But should they fall behind schedule, Sierra Nevada Company will gladly capitalize with their Dream Chaser spacecraft, which will fire off on an automated orbital flight on November 1, 2016. Unless, you know, it doesn’t.
This decision to go forward with their flight plan comes just three months after a mostly successful prototype test flight ended with a “Whoops!” when part of the landing gear failed to deploy, sending the vehicle skidding off track. Really, that’s a pretty minimal problem, considering everything inside the plane itself remained intact, and all of the flight data was logged for the duration, which makes fixing the mistakes that much easier. And I guess the kinks are falling away with ease.
Dream Chaser will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, strapped to a ULA Atlas V rocket being built in Alabama. Further details about the mission were unveiled at a recent press conference held at the Kennedy Space Center, where SNC discussed how it would be using the Operations & Checkout and Shuttle Landing facilities for each flight. This is also where all the corporate heads came forward and expressed their jubilancy that their plans are moving forward.
Highlights of those quotes included SNC corporate vice president and head of Sierra Nevada Space Systems Mark N. Sirangelo being extremely proud that America’s rockets were going to be fired from American launching pads into America’s outer space. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Kennedy Center director Bob Cabana were very supportive of the endeavor, and ULA President and CEO Michael Gass talked about how good his Atlas rockets are. Nothing wrong with being proud of something that works.
Arguably the most inspirational words came from SNC senior director and Dream Chaser program manager Steve Lindsey, in reference to his own history in space travel.
I had the privilege of piloting and commanding five Space Shuttle flights as a NASA astronaut. That included the last flight of Discovery which was processed, launched, and on March 9, 2011, made its final landing at the SLF after 39 flights and 148 million space miles…[We] look forward to seeing Dream Chaser continue this legacy from Discovery when it flies in 2016.
You can still hear the roar from the crowd if you listen real close.
It’s too bad, as 2016 was going to be the year where I totally T.P.’d Cape Canaveral on Halloween. I guess there’s always the next year. Fly along with these two videos below; one marks the faulty landing while the other is an actual highlight reel. Go space!