Dream Chaser space plane may land at New Mexico's Spaceport America

Dream Chaser is capable of touching down on any runway that can accommodate a Boeing 737.
Sierra Space's Dream Chaser space plane is capable of touching down on any runway that can accommodate a Boeing 737. (Image credit: Sierra Nevada Corp.)

Another landing locale may have just opened up for the private Dream Chaser space plane.

Spaceship maker Sierra Space signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Tuesday (June 21) with Spaceport America, potentially paving the way for Dream Chaser to touch down at the New Mexico facility after its orbital missions.

While not a done deal, the MOU aligns the two entities in their "mutual pursuit" of a reentry license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Dream Chaser landings in New Mexico. The FAA has already approved the spacecraft to land at Huntsville International Airport in Alabama, Sierra Space representatives noted in a press release (opens in new tab).

Spaceport America's potential inclusion among approved landing sites will "continue to open up affordable access to space for all," Tom Vice, Sierra Space CEO, said in the release. No timeline was offered for Spaceport America landings, if approved.

In pictures: Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser aces glide test flight

Artist's conception of Dream Chaser touching down on a runway.

Artist's conception of Sierra Space's Dream Chaser space plane touching down on a runway. (Image credit: Sierra Space)

NASA has tasked Sierra Nevada with at least six uncrewed International Space Station (ISS) cargo missions using Dream Chaser. The flights will lift off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rockets.

In addition to the Alabama site, Dream Chaser is also in line to touch down at NASA's former space shuttle runway at the Launch and Landing Facility, at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Other potentially compatible runways are in the works at Oita Airport in Japan and Spaceport Cornwall in the United Kingdom, Sierra Space said in its recent release.

The company at first was thinking of Dream Chaser as a crewed vehicle for ISS astronaut flights, but NASA eventually selected SpaceX and Boeing to carry crews to and from the ISS. Sierra Space may eventually build a crewed version (opens in new tab) of the space plane for other clients, however.

NASA currently receives cargo shipments at the ISS from SpaceX and Northrop Grumman. SpaceX's Dragon capsule returns experiments to Earth during re-entries, while Northrop Grumman's Cygnus is designed to burn up naturally in the atmosphere. Dream Chaser will offer another way to get cargo down to Earth from the ISS.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace