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Dream Chaser Spaceplane to Be Ready in 2026, Sierra to Train Proper Astronauts for It

Up until recently, the only American organizations qualified to train astronauts were the U.S. Air Force and NASA. Then private space companies came along, and the world was amazed to find out one could fly to the edge of space without the need for extensive training in the right hands, and even at very old age (William Shatner, anyone?).
Sierra Dream Chaser to be flown by in-house trained astronauts 7 photos
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For many, myself included, people going to the edge of space for joy rides cannot be properly called astronauts, despite the marketing efforts of companies like Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin. For us, an astronaut must be properly trained and, most importantly, must go up there not for sightseeing, but to advance the human race through the activities they perform.

At the time of writing, there are several training facilities for proper astronauts, but another, major one is coming – it’s being put together by Sierra Space, and is described as the "world’s first fully-integrated commercial human spaceflight center and astronaut training academy."

To be led by NASA astronaut Dr. Janet Kavandi (Space Shuttle missions STS-91, STS-99, and STS-104), the center will be located at the NASA Kennedy Space Center and will be tasked with the recruiting and training of the “astronaut corps that will be required to support the commercialization of space.”

The place will be open to professional career astronauts, specialist astronauts, and yes, even to experiential astronauts (which is a new euphemism for space tourists), because one has to make money somehow.

“Our intent is for Sierra Space to stand at the forefront of the commercial space industry,” said Dr. Kavandi in a statement.

“Our new Human Spaceflight Center and Astronaut Training Academy will pave the way for our company to do just that – by selecting, training and preparing the very best space exploration talent to lead the way in this new era of low-Earth orbit destinations. We are excited to start this effort at the Kennedy Space Center during this truly formative stage in the new space economy.”

Sierra needs an astronaut corps in light of the upcoming flight readiness of the Dream Chaser spaceplane. Earlier in June, the machine completed its System Requirements Review (SRR), and Sierra now says it should be ready for flight sometime in 2026.

So far, we know of the plane having been selected to be one of the means of transport to Jeff Bezos’ upcoming Orbital Reef space station. Sierra Nevada Corporation will also supply the Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) module for Orbital.

press release

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