FAA’s new spacecraft license sparks excitement in Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued Huntsville International Airport a license on Friday, May 13 that allows spacecraft to land there.

It is the nation’s first commercial airport approved as a re-entry site and an important step in consolidating Huntsville as a key player in the development of an all-new economy, 250 miles away in low Earth orbit.

Mayor Tommy Battle says it will be a full circle moment when the Dream Chaser finally lands on the Huntsville International runway. After years of spacecraft design and development, one is going to land there.

“I think that just gives us a full tool bag, when you talk about the tools you use to do space exploration, you have to have a landing site in our city,” Mayor Battle said.

Landing the super-slick Dream Chaser mini-shuttle is Lee Jankowski’s idea.

“It’s just super exciting,” said Lee Jankowski, Dream Chaser Licensing Effort program manager.

Huntsville has supported the civilian space industry for 60 years, but it’s part of a new mission for the commercial space industry, building and nurturing a new economy in low Earth orbit.

When the Dream Chaser spaceplane lifts off from the ground inside a Decatur-built Vulcan rocket in 2023, it will resupply the International Space Station and land at Kennedy Space Center. Ultimately, Dream Chaser will be used to build a new commercial space station and Orbital Reef, a mixed-use space activity park.

“We have a strong history of supporting operations and facilities and the management infrastructure at Huntsville International, to deliver those missions,” Jankowski said. “On top of that we have United Nations missions, two that have the potential to land here that Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser embraces.”

Local universities, biotech companies (HudsonAlpha), manufacturing companies, and even NASA are expected to come on board and be customers of these missions.

“Our hope is that this is the start, the Dream Chaser is a start, but maybe we go to bigger models and use those models to expand our space exploration and do it from here to Huntsville” , said Mayor Battle.

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