LOUISVILLE, Colo. — The next big step for mankind is taking shape at Sierra Nevada Corporation's hangar in Louisville.
A few days ago, the spacecraft Dream Chaser arrived at their headquarters, where it will stay until it is complete.
SNC Senior Vice President of Space Exploration Systems Steven Lindsey said the new spacecraft will provide cargo services to the International Space Station while partnering with NASA.
Lindsy said that aside from being a cargo service, the focus is on bringing back research.
"It's all about the science for us," Lindsey said. "It's getting the science back, getting the science up to the space station, providing essentially a science station while we're up at space station, returning that science in a gentle, low g environment, so you don't damage the research that's been done in orbit."
Dream Chaser will launch from inside a rocket, separate, and then open its wings and dock at the ISS — all of it being done without a single person on board.
SNC Senior Director and Co-Program Manager of Space Exploration Systems John Curry said it's a good option for them to start with cargo only.
"The cool thing about doing cargo first is that it'll be all automated. So you can do all these things -- ascent, orbit and entry without a crew," Curry said. "So when we do add the crew, we can do it in very specific ways to give it more capability, more flexibility."
That doesn't mean they're not already thinking about sending crews in the near future.
ISS Program Manager Kirk A. Shireman said they're already planning on breaking barriers.
"We're actually partnering together with the Gateway Program with the Lunar Program to send humans further out into space than ever before, and the capabilities that we have on the ISS, the capabilities that Dream Chaser will support, is critical to making all these things," Shireman said. "All our endeavors in space tie together."
Their goal is to launch from Florida in late 2021.