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article imageSierra Nevada's 'Dream Chaser' to fly first UN mission in 2021

By Karen Graham     Sep 29, 2016 in Technology
Five years from now, a private space plane will fly a two-week robotic mission in low-Earth orbit as part of a cooperative agreement between the Sierra Nevada Corp. and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).
The UNOOSA division was formed 59 years ago as a means of promoting international cooperation in the peaceful use and exploration of space. A core part of the agency's mission is in utilizing space science and technology to bring about sustainable economic and social development.
UNOOSA serves as the secretariat to the General Assembly's only committee that deals with international cooperation in the peaceful use of space, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). UNOOSA is also responsible for implementing international space laws and keeping and maintaining the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
A pickup truck pulls the Sierra Nevada Corporation  or SNC  Dream Chaser flight vehicle through 60 m...
A pickup truck pulls the Sierra Nevada Corporation, or SNC, Dream Chaser flight vehicle through 60 mile per hour tow tests on taxi and runways at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. (August 13, 2013.)
NASA/Ken Ulbrich
Located at the UN office in Vienna, Austria, UNOOSA is the current secretariat of the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG). But despite all the work this agency is involved in space technology and programs on space applications, the agency has never gone on an actual mission.
Sierra Nevada Corporation and the Dream Chaser
Sparks, Nevada-based Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) is a privately-held company that was formed in 1963. The company has worked quietly and without a lot of fanfare, specializing in an array of technologies, such as electronic systems, microsatellites, telemedicine, cyber-security, information systems and commercial orbital transportation systems.
In 2008, SNC acquired SpaceDev, an aerospace and defense industry company. Two years later, SNC got $20 million in seed money from NASA to develop the Dream Chaser, a revival of NASA's HL-20 Personnel Launch System lifting-body design.
Without going into a lot of details, the Dream Chaser we're talking about is the second space vehicle to use the name "Dream Chaser." This vehicle is designed as a baseline aircraft that can be modified to fit a variety of applications. Dream Chaser can be launched into low-Earth orbit and can handle a crew of from two to seven members.
An orbital test flight of the 30-foot long Dream Chaser is planned for November 1, 2016, launching on an Atlas V rocket from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 41.
The 2021 UNOOSA Mission
But let's get back to the UNOOSA Mission because it really sounds exciting. The mission is targeting developing countries that don't have their own space programs, which is really a great idea that will encourage interest in space technologies and space science.
Part of UNOOSA s  My Planet from Space  exhibition in Vienna  Austria.
Part of UNOOSA's "My Planet from Space" exhibition in Vienna, Austria.
The UN says any member nation can apply to put a payload on board the 2021 mission, and the nations whose submissions are chosen in 2018 will be asked to foot part of the mission's total bill. Sierra Nevada Corp. has already said that poorer nations will get a price break. UNOOSA and SNC are both looking for sponsors to help out.
After hashing out a few details of the mission with SNC, UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo said in a statement, the low-Earth orbital flight "will provide United Nations member states with the ability to access space in a cost-effective and collaborative manner within a few short years. The possibilities are endless."
More about sierra nevada, United Nations, UNOOSA, Dream Chaser, space programs
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