Dream Chaser Reaches Edwards AFB to Prove It Has “The Right Stuff”

5/21/13Follow @MichaelXBD

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is making cargo flights to the space station.

Boeing (NYSE: BA) is developing the third project, named the CST-1000.

SpaceX and Boeing’s vehicles are both capsules that would return to earth by parachute.

The competition could be steep, and SNC, a privately owned aerospace company headquartered in Sparks, NV, is much smaller and less well known than its competitors. It does have a powerful partner in Lockheed Martin, which is building the Dream Chaser’s composite structure. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. is based in Littleton, which is south of Denver.

Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) also is developing a crewed space capsule, named the Orion, but it is part of a different NASA program and will have a different mission.

Whatever the Dream Chaser’s future holds, it already has an interesting past.

According to SNC and NASA, concept plans for the vehicle that evolved into the Dream Chaser were reverse engineered from a vehicle developed by the Soviet Union. An Australian patrol plan captured pictures of the Soviet vehicle on a test flight, and the pictures made their way to the U.S. intelligence and spaceflight community.

The Sierra Nevada Corp. team, which includes former astronauts and self-proclaimed children of the space race, hasn’t been shy about wanting to claim a place in the U.S.’s history of space exploration and playing up the patriotism angle. The U.S. currently sends astronauts up on Russian flights and will reportedly pay more than $420 million for flights through 2017.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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