Jetgala - - AIRBORNE TAILHOOK - by Ka­t­rina Bal­maceda Uy

VIR­GIN GALAC­TIC’S SPACESHIPTWO FOR ‘EDGE OF SPACE TOURISTS’ EX­ITS THE AT­MOS­PHERE AT G-FORCE 3, AND RE-EN­TERS AT ABOUT TWICE THAT LEVEL. A high-level roller coaster typ­i­cally pulls up to 5 g. And fighter pi­lots will rou­tinely ex­pe­ri­ence even more.

Sierra Ne­vada Cor­po­ra­tion’s Dream Chaser space­craft doesn’t per­form quite as dra­mat­i­cally, but it is a most im­pres­sive fly­ing ma­chine nev­er­the­less. De­signed for both crewed and un­manned low-Earth or­bit mis­sions, it will pull no more than 1.5 g through­out its flight pro­file. This makes it an ideal ve­hi­cle for trans­port­ing sen­si­tive pay­loads, or re­turn­ing in­jured or end-of-mis­sion crew mem­bers from space.

With its use of all non-toxic con­sum­ables, in­clud­ing pro­pel­lants, it is also de­signed to op­er­ate on a va­ri­ety of land­ing in­fra­struc­ture, as long as there’s 3,000 km (10,000 ft) of run­way. SNC is in the process of try­ing to gain FAA ap­proval for com­mer­cial mis­sions to land Dream Chaser at com­mer­cial air­ports and ex­ist­ing space­ports.

This is key to ful­fill­ing a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing signed with the United Na­tions Of­fice of Outer Space Af­fairs (UNOOSA) to pur­sue ex­tended mi­cro­grav­ity mis­sions for UN mem­ber states. The idea is to as­sist smaller and de­vel­op­ing coun­tries in de­vel­op­ing space flight ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

El­i­gi­ble coun­tries will pay a por­tion of mis­sion costs, as will ma­jor spon­sors. Pay­loads will be se­lected in 2018 and the launch is sched­uled for 2021. UNOOSA sees it as a way to “pro­mote in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion in the peace­ful use of outer space”. Per­haps, if mankind avoids repli­cat­ing its his­tory on Earth, there may be a chance of achiev­ing just that.

Im­age by NASA

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