Miniature space plane heads for Cornwall

Miniature space plane heads for Cornwall

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Sierra Space has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Spaceport Cornwall to bring its miniature autonomous space shuttle to the UK.

The Dream Chaser is 9m long and would use the runway at Newquay in Cornwall as an orbital return after launching satellites into low earth orbit (LEO). It flys entirely autonomously, luanching from a rocket and flying back to earth to be reused.

The move comes after the UK government became the first country in Europe to approve space launches.

Sierra Space is the commercial space subsidiary Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) in the US and the Dream Chaser Cargo System was selected by NASA to provide cargo delivery and disposal services to the International Space Station under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract.

The Dream Chaser CRS-2 flights can carry up to 5000kg of cargo and are planned to land at Space Florida’s Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Centre in 2022. Launches by the European Space Agency (ESA) using Arianespace are also proposed.

The MOU is expected to lead to a more detailed study in the future by Sierra Space for potentially naming Spaceport Cornwall as an approved orbital return location for the company’s Dream Chaser spaceplane missions in the future.

Sierra Space did an additional evaluation of the site as part of the successful completion of the Concept of Operations (CONOPS). The resulting agreement specifically identifies Spaceport Cornwall as a suitable and viable return location for the orbital return of Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser spaceplane.

This study was funded by the UK Space Agency as part of their Horizontal Launch Fund, investigated a number of factors including the operational requirements of Dream Chaser, the US/UK regulatory framework, return mission trajectory analysis, risk analysis, environmental and infrastructure review, as well as a consideration of present and future supply chain capability.

“In the backdrop of the G7 Summit, Sierra Space is pleased to announce the ongoing progress we are making with Spaceport Cornwall as a viable site for Dream Chaser,” said Fatih Ozmen, CEO and owner of SNC. “Sierra Space understands and embraces the historical significance this milestone represents for Cornwall, a great partner, and the broader UK space industry. We share with Spaceport Cornwall a vision to increase and democratize space sector participation by lowering the cost of access to space and communicating the vital role satellites can play in combating some of the global climate challenges world leaders are currently discussing at G7.”

“We are delighted to welcome representatives from Sierra Space to Cornwall during the G7 Summit, and to announce the signing of the MOU,” said Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall. “Spaceport Cornwall is a multi-user spaceport and it’s a great achievement to add an additional launch partner to our consortium a year ahead of first launch from the site in 2022. Satellite technology offers so much hope in combating many of the environmental challenges being discussed here this week, and we are proud to be able to showcase the part Cornwall, and the UK is playing,” she said.

Sierra Space has long been targeted by Spaceport Cornwall as a potential second launch partner in addition to Virgin Orbit, who will achieve the UK’s first ever sovereign orbital launch from the site in 2022.

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