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New FAA spacecraft license lands excitement in Huntsville

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 5:39 AM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2022 at 5:44 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued Huntsville International Airport a license on Friday, May 13 that allows spacecraft to land there.

It’s the first commercial airport in the country approved as a re-entry site and a big step in cementing Huntsville as a key player in developing a whole new economy, 250 miles up, in Low Earth Orbit.

Mayor Tommy Battle says it will be a full-circle moment when the Dream Chaser finally touches down on Huntsville International’s runway. After years of designing and developing spacecraft, one will be landing there.

“I think it just gives us a full tool bag, when you talk about the tools that you use to do space exploration part of it is you need to have a landing site right in our city,” said Mayor Battle.

Landing the very deft Dream Chaser mini-shuttle is Lee Jankowski’s idea.

“It’s just super exciting,” said Lee Jankowski, Program Manager for Dream Chaser Licensing Effort.

Huntsville has supported the Civil Space industry for 60 years, but this is part of a new mission for the commercial space industry, building and servicing a new economy in Low Earth Orbit.

When the Dream Chaser space plane lifts off the ground inside a Decatur-built Vulcan Rocket in 2023, it’s going to be resupplying the International Space Station and land at the Kennedy Space Center. Eventually, Dream Chaser will be used to build a new, Commercial Space Station and an orbital reef, a mixed-use business park in space.

“We’ve got a strong story for supporting the operations and facilities and management infrastructure in Huntsville International, to provide for those missions,” said Jankowski. “In addition to that, we’ve got United Nations missions, two that have the potential to land here that Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser is embracing.”

Local universities, biotech companies (HudsonAlpha), those in manufacturing and even NASA are expected to jump on board and be -customers on these missions.

“Our hope is that this is the start, the Dream Chaser is a start but maybe we go to some bigger models and use those models to expand our exploration of space and do it from right here in Huntsville,” said Mayor Battle.

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