The United Nations will fly its first-ever mission into space aboard Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spaceplane in 2021 to give developing nations a chance to make it into orbit.
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) announced the partnership with the Sierra Nevada, a space travel company, with a plan to launch a two-week robotic mission into low-Earth orbit.
The UN orbital mission will help those countries without a space program or major scientific facilities to advance their knowledge base, UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo told Spacenews.
“Our project is the first-ever United Nations space mission. The mission has one very important goal: to allow United Nations member states to conduct research that cannot be done on Earth.”
The groundbreaking mission will be open to every nation on Earth, but special emphasis will be given to those countries without a space program. Nations that take part in the orbital mission will be asked to shoulder some of the cost, but the UN is hoping to recruit sponsors nations to finance the majority of the expense and give developing nations a reduced fee.
Member states will submit proposals to the UN next year when the agency briefs its space partners on mission goals. Payloads will be chosen by 2018 giving time for the nations going on the UN’s first space mission time to develop and build their projects.
The UN space organization was formed in 1962 to promote international cooperation and the peaceful use of outer space for all earthlings, UNOOSA’s Director Simonetta Di Pippo told RT about the program’s goals.
“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 program.”
The Dream Chaser orbital mission is part of the UN agency’s larger effort dubbed the Human Space Technology Initiative. The agency has also launched the KiboCUBE program designed to allow developing nations the opportunity to launch CubeSats from the International Space Station.
The UN is also working closely with China’s national space program, and a memo signed in March was the first step toward allowing the UN to access China’s space station when it comes online in the early 2020’s.
Sierra Nevada is building the Dream Chaser to serve as a cargo vessel to resupply the ISS under a NASA contract. The spaceplane was built as a reusable, multi-mission craft able to carry up to seven passengers and land at commercial airports and spaceports.
That means the 30-foot-long spaceplane can land in any of the member states to pick up their payload for the UN space mission, Eren Ozmen, SNC’s owner and president told RT.
“At SNC our goal is to pay it forward. That means leveraging the creation and success of our Dream Chaser spacecraft to benefit future generations of innovators like us all around the world.”
The space race is heating up, and low-Earth orbit is starting to look like a great place for international cooperation. The U.S. already uses Russian Soyuz spacecraft to reach the ISS, and Russia is building a space taxi that will shuttle between the space station and the moon. Hoping to cope with the clutter, Europe has dedicated itself to removing all the trash from orbit.
China has leapfrogged into the space race with its second space station and has plans to build its own Hubble telescope after the country just switched on the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope.
Even North Korea has satellites in orbit, and Kim Jong Un recently announced his intention to plant a flag on the surface of the moon.
What do you think about the first ever UN space flight?
[Featured Image by Ken Ulbrich/ NASA/ AP Images]