Workshop in Huntsville to talk Dream Chaser spacecraft and the next big industry in Huntsville

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – As Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser prepares for commercial space flight, the company continues to explore Huntsville as a frontier suitable for the spacecraft’s landing.

In previous news, the company and Huntsville International Airport were working on feasibility studies for the runways, as well as airspace, and other factors surrounding a landing.  While the runways have been cleared, there’s still more work to do before SNC and Huntsville International can become licensed for a landing. There is much optimism about it, and if it’s indeed successful, Huntsville International would become the first commercial service airport to do so.

“Yes, we have been approached by other airports with interest,” said John Roth, Vice President of Business Development with Sierra Nevada Corp, “but we aren’t going forward with any of those. Right now, Huntsville is the only community we’re moving forward with a license on.”

A meeting held Thursday explored another side of Huntsville’s involvement: the industry that supports space flight here. Industry partners met at the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County for a workshop to talk business.

Lucia Cape, Senior Vice President of Economic Development for the Chamber, said commercial spaceflight could be the next big and booming industry with explosive growth in Huntsville. She said the meeting was about staying on top of it, making sure there’s a welcoming environment for growth and bringing in new companies, while gauging the support from industries already here. Companies talked about support for Dream Chaser’s landing, along with payload development, operations, processing, and vehicle maintenance that already exists from the companies who call Huntsville “home.”

“The Chamber’s goals for hosting the workshop are to promote the community’s resources for supporting Dream Chaser spacecraft and to identify our best targets for economic development in the emerging commercial space industry,” Cape said.

Cape said this is an initial step to start marketing Huntsville as a landing site, which could mean big things for the Rocket City and surrounding area in the future.

“Landing the Dream Chaser in Huntsville is a logical fit due to its proximity to industry, resources and unmatched experience in the community. We plan to continue providing our support and expertise to assist in the development of this remarkable opportunity for the area,” said Jan Hess, President of Teledyne Brown Engineering.

“UAH has a long heritage of flying science experiments in space, and I’m excited about the possibilities for our faculty and students to use SNC’s Dream Chaser as a science platform and to be able get such rapid post-mission access to science payloads,” said Dr. Ray Vaughn, UAH Vice President for Research and Economic Development.

Excitement is building, especially because Sierra Nevada has been awarded a NASA contract to supply the International Space Station. Dream Chaser would launch atop a Decatur-made ULA Atlas V, and more missions would mean more dollars coming in through demand for ULA’s work to build more launch vehicles.

John Roth said, “Our launch vehicle is being built down the street, and Lockheed Martin is also a big subcontractor. They’re building our composite structure for our vehicle. So we have a pretty good relationship.”

He added, “This is really all about, how do we bring economic development into Huntsville.”