Sierra Nevada Corporation and Houston Airport System Sign Letter of Intent to Explore Dream Chaser® Teaming Opportunities at Houston Spaceport

Apr 14, 2014, 15:42 ET from Houston Airport System

SPARKS, Nev., April 14, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a joint news conference held on April 10 at the Rice University Space Institute, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and the Houston Airport System (HAS) announced plans to explore potential applications and multiple economic development opportunities presented by the combination of a Houston-based spaceport and SNC's Dream Chaser® — a spacecraft that can land at the spaceport directly from low-Earth orbit.

SNC and HAS signed a letter of intent to work together to explore the possibilities associated with the proposed Houston Spaceport including a wide range of educational, technological, scientific and business capacities. As part of the cooperative initiative, the organizations will study the physical, operational and regulatory requirements for SNC's commercial space vehicle, Dream Chaser, to utilize the spaceport as one of its potential landing sites. This effort will contribute to defining a long range strategy for the diversification and development of a vibrant commercial space industry in Texas, serving the needs of government, science and commercial applications.

"Houston has been a cornerstone of America's space program and remains vital for its future.  Dream Chaser's ability to land on a commercial runway such as Ellington offers, for the first time, a realistic path for America's space program to return and be seen locally by the thousands of people who make space happen every day in Houston and give tribute to the generations that have made us the leaders in exploration," said Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC's Space Systems. "As importantly, we can reach out to the young people of the region who will take us to the future and get them to experience in person the passion of our nation's space program so that they might be inspired as we were.  With the unique combination of NASA, the local aerospace industry, many of whom are already partnered on our program and academic institutions such as Rice University, combined with the potential of a future spaceport, Houston's future in space commerce is a go."

"Houston has unique advantages over other emerging spaceport locations with significant access to an existing, robust aerospace community," said City of Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz. "This letter of intent will allow us to effectively assess and define the new markets and applications that could emerge from having a Houston-based portal to space, which in turn will drive enterprise, economic growth and prosperity in this area."

"The Houston Airport System is steadily moving forward with plans to bring Houston Spaceport to Ellington Airport, and we plan to submit our official application to the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space in July 2014," said Arturo Machuca, HAS Business Development Manager. "As a part of the process, we are forming relationships within the aerospace community to ensure that we present the best strategy to benefit the industry as well as the City of Houston for years to come."

SNC is working with NASA's Commercial Crew Program to develop a safe, innovative, modern, flexible and highly-capable crew transportation system for the 21st century. Dream Chaser provides the only reusable, human-rated lifting-body spacecraft with a commercial runway landing capability, anywhere in the world, and is on the forefront of the commercial human spaceflight industry, offering safe, reliable and cost-effective crew and critical cargo transportation to low-Earth orbit. Dream Chaser is a multi-mission capable spacecraft which has the ability to work as an independent science platform, or as a logistics vehicle to retrieve, move, assemble or deploy items in space.     

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SOURCE Houston Airport System