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New space plane prepares to launch from Florida – NBC 6 South Florida

There’s a new spaceship in town.

It will remind you of the space shuttle because it takes off on a rocket and lands like a glider. The most recent spaceplane program is called Dream Chaser, built by a company called Sierra Space and designed to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station. The first model is called Tenacity. It arrived at the Kennedy Space Center last week and will make its first launch in September.

“Oh, it’s possible that I’m flying, it’s possible that you’re a passenger, too,” retired NASA astronaut Dr. Tom Marshburn told me recently in a Zoom interview.

Marshburn now works for Sierra Space, helping them design human-friendly living quarters.

“Sierra Space is one of the companies at the forefront of bringing people into low Earth orbit. Sierra Space is focused on building a research platform, capable of manufacturing and an extremely robust commercial capability in low Earth orbit,” Marshburn explained.

They are building an inflatable space station module, stronger than steel, but much easier to customize for any type of research. It easily passed a rigorous NASA stress test. Once deployed, several years from now, it will provide opportunities for space breakthroughs possible only in zero gravity, such as new drugs and therapies.

“What Sierra Space wants to do is get people, universities, companies, their best researchers, their best technicians, to go into space and do this work directly,” Marshburn explained.

A practicing emergency room physician before being recruited by NASA, Marshburn had an exemplary career as an astronaut, flying on three missions, performing spacewalks, and living on the space station for months. I asked him if he was still inspired by space travel.

“Oh, absolutely, because spaceflight is just like that,” Marshburn said.

“And the memories I cherish the most are those of looking at Earth, from space, with a teammate, discussing it with another human being.”

And you see the fragility of the planet we all live on, I said.

“I think what sticks in my mind the most is the fragility of the human species and therefore how precious we are, and how much we have to take care of this incubator, this house, of this planet Earth,” Marshburn responded.

There is no such thing as a “B” planet, but ongoing work is paving the way for interplanetary space travel on the horizon.