Company chases NASA's dream

Nasa Dream
NASA likes the idea of a mini-shuttle spaceship so much that they're paying Sierra Nevada Corp. $100 million to start developing it. The result is a case of deja vu all over again: Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser space plane is based on a design NASA considered more than 20 years ago.

Sierra Nevada is updating the HL-20 lifting-body design for the 21st century, using carbon composite construction techniques and state-of-the-art avionics. If NASA likes what it sees and provides further funding, the Dream Chaser could be ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station as early as 2015. Three other companies — SpaceX, the Boeing Co. and Blue Origin — are also receiving development money from NASA as part of the agency's commercial crew development program.

Sierra Nevada is the only company of the four that is working on a winged vehicle like the shuttle, and it plans to capitalize on the parallels. Just last week, Sierra Nevada Space Systems' chairman, Mark Sirangelo, signed an agreement with NASA to use facilities at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the development and launch of the Dream Chaser.

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