LOUISVILLE — Sierra Nevada Corp. may get yet another chance to chase its dream.
The Sparks, Nev.-based company, which has a space systems division in Louisville, announced on Tuesday that it is talking with an agency of the United Nations about using its Dream Chaser reusable orbital spacecraft to host payloads from U.N. member countries.
Sierra Nevada had lost out on one big contract with NASA in 2014 for use of the Dream Chaser, but won one with the space agency in January. The new memorandum of understanding with the U.N.’s Office for Outer Space Affairs would define one or more low-orbital missions for the company’s flexible space utility vehicle and transportation system.
Under the agreement, the U.N. agency and Sierra Nevada will work with member countries to develop an interface control document and payload hosting guide to allow payloads developed by participating countries to be hosted and operated on a dedicated mission, providing those countries affordable access to space, according to an SNC media statement.
Sierra Nevada “is honored to partner with UNOOSA under our Dream Chaser Global Initiative to offer access to space to a wide range of countries, from those with well-defined space programs and objectives, to developing countries who would like the social and economic benefits of a space program without the time and financial burden of developing the necessary infrastructure,” said Mark Sirangelo, vice president of Sierra Nevada’s Space Systems business area, in a prepared statement. “Our vison, in partnership with the U.N., is to provide U.N. member countries affordable access to space and a range of multi-mission opportunities using the Dream Chaser spacecraft to host a wide range of payloads. Countries will be able to customize their participation level commensurate with the maturity of their space capabilities and national desires, while engaging their universities, industrial companies and government laboratories, and most importantly, their people.
“We offer a complete turnkey solution for participants, providing not only the spacecraft, but all aspects of flight including mission planning and operations.”
The company in January received a contract from NASA to provide at least six cargo-delivery, return and disposal services to and from the International Space Station, using the Dream Chaser. It competed with four aerospace industry giants for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract to transport pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the space station through 2024.
Dream Chaser’s future had been in doubt in September 2014 when NASA snubbed Sierra Nevada and awarded $6.8 billion in contracts to Boeing Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies to build the next spacecraft that will send astronauts into orbit from American soil. But Sierra Nevada rebounded, unveiling a more versatile, unmanned cargo-only version of Dream Chaser with folding wings and an added cargo module attached to the back.