Sierra Space explores landing Dream Chaser spaceplane in Japan

On February 26, Sierra Space, which just recently began a massive hiring spree, signed an agreement to explore landing its Dream Chaser spaceplane at Oita Airport, in Japan.

The Memorandum of Understanding between Sierra Space, Oita Prefecture (the district government), and Kanematsu Corporation will see the company explore the possibility of landing Dream Chaser at Oita Airport, in Kunisaki, Oita, Japan.

Kanematsu will work with the three parties to develop new business opportunities in Japan for Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser that will connect the Low Earth Orbit Destinations to the Earth, and will perform specific studies such as safety evaluation, environmental assessment, and potential economic impact.

One of the great benefits of a spaceplane, and Dream Chaser in particular, is that it can land softly on a normal runway, unlike a capsule, which would parachute down either onto land or into water.

So long as all goes well through the safety evaluation, environmental assessment, and economic impact, Oita Airport has the opportunity to become one of many airports around the world that can serve as a spaceport. The more opportunities for landing the better for Dream Chaser, as Kennedy Space Center’s Launch and Landing facility is set to be a potential landing location, as is Huntsville, Alabama.

An exact timeline for when these would take place, and when it could become operational, was not shared. The first launch of the Cargo version of Dream Chaser is not set until next year, and that is as a part of NASA’s CRS2 contract, so Kennedy’s Launch and Landing facility, with Sierra Space’s facilities right nearby, will be the ideal landing location. Once more governments (and corporations) around the world are booking cargo and eventually crew flights on Dream Chaser, then the runways worldwide will likely see more use.

At Sierra Space. we are building a platform in space to benefit life on Earth. Our work on the next generation of space transportation, commercial space destinations and enabling technologies is spearheaded by the Dream Chaser® spaceplane. Dream Chaser is a multi-variant space vehicle which leverages flexible design and performance versatility with the ability to land on existing commercial runways worldwide. Through this project with Oita Prefecture and Kanematsu Corporation, Sierra Space can envisage a future where the Oita Space Port is a hub for Dream Chaser landings, enabling returning space missions to land in Japan as part of our growing global network of landing sites.

Tom Vice, Sierra Space CEO

Notably, Japan has long shown up in computer-generated b-roll as a landing spot for Dream Chaser. With the announcement of a hiring spree at Sierra Space earlier this week and this latest announcement to explore a new landing opportunity, things certainly seem to be ramping up for the company, and I’m curious when it may announce the exploration of a specific European landing opportunity.

Regardless, things are looking good for Sierra Space, which is currently targeting its first launch of Dream Chaser less than a year from now.

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