FAA considering plan to land space vehicles near Madison
MADISON – Residents in south end of Madison may soon easily witness history in the making from their own backyards. The Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority is proposing to operate the Huntsville International Airport (HSV) as a hub for the aerospace industry.
The FAA is considering approving the airport, which is located just south of the Madison city limits, as a commercial space reentry site, and Sierra Space is proposing to reenter its Dream Chaser vehicle at HSV.
To operate a commercial space reentry site at HSV, the Authority must obtain a Reentry Site Operator License from the FAA. To reenter the Dream Chaser vehicle at HSV, Sierra Space must obtain a Vehicle Operator License from the FAA.
According to the FAA, they will evaluate the applications before making determinations on approval/disapproval of the licenses. Through the evaluation processes, the FAA will complete reviews on safety, environmental impacts, airspace integration, policy, and reentry site location, in accordance with relevant FAA regulations and the National Environmental Policy Act.
The Huntsville International Airport serves more than 1.2 million passengers each year, and is the largest commercial airport in northern Alabama. It spans about 6,000 acres
Sierra Space is developing the Dream Chaser, a reusable reentry vehicle capable of carrying payloads to and from low Earth orbit, including delivering supplies to the International Space Station under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The Dream Chaser vehicle would be carried as payload on a vertically-launched United Launch Alliance Atlas 5. HSV does not support vertical launches of space vehicles; therefore, launch activities would occur at another site, such as Cape Canaveral.
The reentry vehicle would reenter from the south on an ascending trajectory, with high atmospheric overflight of the southwestern U.S. or Central American countries, before landing at HSV. The reentry vehicle would remain above 60,000 feet altitude above mean sea level for the majority of the overflight of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The reentry vehicle would descend below 60,000 feet altitude above mean sea level approximately 10 to 20 miles from HSV prior to landing and would operate below 60,000 mean sea level for about three to four minutes.