U.N. puts out global call for space payloads

Dream Chaser
An artist’s conception shows Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser space plane. (SNC Illustration)

Remember those science-fiction movies where the United Nations was calling the shots in space? We may be one small step closer to that scenario.

Today the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs, or UNOOSA, called on its member states, and particularly developing countries, to come up with suggestions for 20 to 30 payloads that would go on an orbital space mission it’s planning with Sierra Nevada Corp.

SNC would fly the payloads — which could include scientific experiments as well as deployable satellites — aboard its Dream Chaser space plane during a two- to three-week flight.

In its call for interest, UNOOSA said each payload should address at least one of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which range from eliminating poverty and hunger to producing affordable and clean energy.

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SNC works with U.N. on global space program

Image: Dream Chaser
An artist’s conception shows Sierra Nevada’s uncrewed version of the Dream Chaser space glider in orbit with a cargo module attached at the back. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Sierra Nevada Corp. says it’s working with the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs on an arrangement that would give countries around the world the opportunity to fly payloads into orbit and back on the company’s Dream Chaser space plane.

“Beyond the commerce, this represents the global reason and the holistic reason why space is important to us,” Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president for SNC’s Space Systems business area, told GeekWire today.

A memorandum of understanding with the U.N. office, known by the acronym UNOOSA, was signed last week, Sirangelo said. The pact is meant to lead to a detailed agreement under which UNOOSA and SNC would facilitate affordable access to space for U.N. member states.

SNC is currently developing an uncrewed cargo version of the Dream Chaser, whichNASA could use to transfer cargo to and from the International Space Stationstarting as early as 2019. For those resupply flights, the winged spaceship would be launched into low Earth orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, and brought back down to a runway landing at the end of each mission.

At last week’s NewSpace 2016 conference in Seattle, Sirangelo said a Dream Chaser prototype was on track to be delivered to NASA for atmospheric testing in August.

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