Efforts continue to have mini shuttle land at Huntsville International Airport

Efforts continue to have mini shuttle land at Huntsville International Airport
(Source: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - From orbit to Huntsville. City and county leaders are making progress toward the goal of landing the Dream Chaser spacecraft in the Rocket City.

Huntsville is in the process of securing its FAA permits to land the Dream Chaser at Huntsville International Airport. The mini shuttle will supply crew and cargo to the International Space Station.

"That process is expected to take about a year and a half so this is right on the time line that we need for the vehicle to be permitted and for it to have its first flights," explained Lucia Cape, senior vice president of economic development for the Huntsville Madison County Chamber.

It would make Huntsville International the first commercial airport to land a space vehicle. On Wednesday, the company behind Dream Chaser, Sierra Nevada, was given a date from NASA for their cargo resupply mission to the space station.

"That date will be in late 2020 which is as expected with the schedule. It will continue to utilize the vehicle as it continues to pass it milestones and development," Cape said.

At this point, Huntsville isn't pushing to be a landing site for the Dream Chaser on their NASA missions, but officials think it is the ideal landing spot for future commercial missions and academic missions.

A big marketing push continues to highlight the workforce experience and expertise as well as the facilities to the commercial space community.

"The existing workforce that supports the space station science at Marshall Space Flight Center is the same kind of workforce expertise that could support commercial science. So all the space station science currently on orbit is managed here in Huntsville and we would like to extend that to commercial space science and exploration," Cape said.

"This is a new market for us. It's not only exciting but it's a good fit for us as we grow our commercial space presence. It builds on our existing workforce capacity and our assets," she said.

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce partnered with a Scottish aerospace company on a European space agency competition.

The winner will be in town next month to meet with local aerospace companies to talk about its winning design for a mission using Dream Chaser as a science platform.

They are trying to accelerate the plant growth process to support space exploration and provide better nutrition for astronauts in space.

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