Sierra Nevada Eyes Operations in New Mexico

An interesting report in the Las Cruces Sun-News:

[NMSA Exectutive Director Christine] Anderson said two companies – including rocket maker Sierra Nevada Corp. – visited Las Cruces last week for a spaceflight symposium and were eying New Mexico as a place to locate. But there was a caveat.

“They said: ‘Unless you pass that (legislation) in January, we’re not going to go there,'” she said.

The legislation in question would limit the ability of people to sue spacecraft equipment and parts suppliers for injuries or deaths except in cases of gross negligence or intentional acts.

Spaceport America would certainly be ideal for Dream Chaser drop tests that will be done from Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo. Virgin Galactic will operate as anchor tenant at the $209 million desert spaceport.

However, I’m wondering if there’s not more to it.

Below is a slide from a presentation given by Kate Maliga of The Tauri Group during the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee’s meeting earlier this month.

Look at number 5 on the list. Dream Chaser is thought of as being for orbital crew and cargo transfers. However, the vehicle has more capabilities than that:

Dream Chaser is a system capable of both suborbital and orbital missions (orbital missions will be launched aboard an Atlas V). The vehicle is based on the original NASA HL-20 design and uses a composite airframe. First air drop tests of Dream Chaser, using Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo aircraft, are scheduled to begin in 2012.

It will be interesting to see whether Sierra Nevada moves to New Mexico and precisely what the company ends up doing there.