United Nations

Final frontier: United Nations to fly first ever space mission aboard the Dream Chaser

The unmanned mission would launch in 2021, officials said, after the experiments had been chosen

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2016, 2:45pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2016, 10:01pm

The United Nations is planning to launch its first mission to space, in an effort to help developing countries without a robust space programme send scientific experiments into a low-gravity environment.

The experiments would be carried aboard the Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft, a miniature version of the space shuttle that can land like a commercial aeroplane on runways. The deal is another coup for the company, which was also recently chosen by Nasa to fly cargo to the International Space Station.

The unmanned mission would launch in 2021, officials said, after the experiments had been chosen. The UN’s Office of Outer Space Affairs is targeting developing countries, but all member states would be able to propose experiments.

One of the agency’s “core responsibilities is to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space,” said Simonetta Di Pippo, director of UNOOSA. “I am proud to say that one of the ways UNOOSA will achieve this, in cooperation with our partner Sierra Nevada Corporation, is by dedicating an entire microgravity mission to United Nations member states, many of which do not have the infrastructure or financial backing to have a standalone space programme.”

In addition to flying research experiments and cargo to the space station, the Dream Chaser is being designed to eventually fly passengers and to repair and replace satellites and even build space habitats, said Mark Sirangelo, the head of Sierra Nevada’s Space Systems division.