HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The Rocket City has propelled itself into another historic first.
Huntsville International Airport has moved a step closer to the goal of becoming the first commercial airport that will serve as a landing spot for the Dream Chaser spaceplane.
The Federal Aviation Administration approved the airport to allow commercial space vehicles to land in the airport. Opening the door for the Dream Chaser, which looks like a small space shuttle, to land has been the ultimate goal for quite some time.
In 2014, the Madison County Chamber of Commerce pushed the effort to get recognized by the FAA as the place where Dream Chaser needed to land first. The license approval is the result of those efforts.
“The airport and the community came together, and this just shows the real value of public and private partnerships and being able to make this sort of important event come about,” said Mary Swanstrom, spokesperson for Huntsville International Airport.
The Dream Chaser spacecraft operated by Sierra Space has always been the goal of the Huntsville Madison Airport Authority. The FAA first needed their own assessment of the airport and the environmental impact that such an aircraft could possibly have.
The concept of using the Huntsville International Airport as a vision for economic development continues the legacy in space science.
“I think it’s a fantastic thing that Huntsville is at the center of that transition,” Mark Spencer of Avilution tells News 19.
Avilution is an avionics software creator for flight systems located at the airport. Spencer says that this is a major step not only locally for Alabama but also on the global stage.
“Looking back at aviation, we were carrying payloads whether it was people or very precious cargo like the mail,” said Spencer. “The reentry is really about payloads being able to be carried. Huntsville is really leading the way to be able to do that as a city and frankly as an airport. I really must hand it to the Huntsville International Airport in their ability to be so forward-thinking to pursue this kind of an effort.”
The FAA says that Sierra Space or any other space vehicle operator will have to apply for their own licenses to operate out of the Huntsville International Airport. Sierra is hopeful to land the Dream Chaser here at the airport as early as 2023.