And I’m not just talking about the formal bid protest that they’ve filed with the Government Accounting Office, fighting NASA’s award of the CCtCap contract to Boeing and SpaceX. No, I’m talking about something new.
Sierra Nevada has found a new partner in Stratolaunch, which from the beginning had wanted to launch humans via a large rocket slung under their monstrous twin-boom carrier aircraft. To that end, they initially had partnered with SpaceX, to fly a Falcon 9 rocket with perhaps a Dragon capsule on the end. But SpaceX eventually backed out, perhaps because of the difficulties of running a liquid-fuel rocket in that manner, perhaps because it distracted from their overall plan. Whatever the reason, they backed out, and Stratolaunch ended up teaming with Orbital Sciences, which already has experience with air-launch in their Pegasus rocket, and was more than happy to provide a larger solid-fuel rocket and the avionics they’d developed for Pegasus. Today, they’ve got a crewable spacecraft to add to the overall package: a scaled-down version of the Dream Chaser. I don’t know if this will ever fly, but I sure hope it does. In many ways, this seems like a more fitting way to launch a spaceplane — from runway to space and then back to runway. 😉