What's the Latest Development?

The private space company Sierra Nevada has come a long way in developing a space taxi to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Called the Dream Chaser, the design is based on a space vehicle developed by NASA in the 1980s called the HL-20. "We took it out of the NASA attic," said Mark Sirangelo, chairman of Sierra Nevada, at this year's 28th National Space Symposium. The Dream Chaser is designed to seat seven, just like the retired space shuttles it is meant to replace. Expectations are that the new vehicle will be a more efficient and cost effective way of getting astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit. 

What's the Big Idea?

The Dream Chaser, one of several vehicles being designed to take astronauts to and from the ISS, is scheduled to begin full orbital flights by 2016. It and the other crafts "are being built with a combination of private investments and NASA funding, under a program that aims to foster the development of commercial spaceships to take the reins from the agency's recently retired space shuttle fleet." The growth of the private space industry is transforming what NASA does, from designing and launching space vehicles to becoming primarily a consumer of new space technology. 

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