by Mark Schnyder - CBSDFW.COM

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada Corporation showed off components for the Dream Chaser spacecraft in Fort Worth Friday.  The companies have been working on the project since 2006 hoping NASA will choose their product to replace the space shuttle program which ended in 2011.

They call it the space shuttle’s little brother.   The Dream Chaser is about the size of a regional jet and there’s a good reason why.

“What we really need now is what we like to call our space utility vehicle or SUV,” says Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems.  “The ability to bring up the crew, bring up the critical cargo and go back and forth in a more efficient manner and in a more rapid manner.”

Sierra Nevada Corporation and Lockheed Martin have joined forces competing against two other companies, Boeing and SpaceX looking to put astronauts back in space on an American made spacecraft. The Dream Chaser’s first flight test was last October. It’s first launch on a rocket is supposed to happen in November 2016.

“For going to low earth orbit, a winged and wheeled vehicle that goes up on an Atlas V rocket and lands on a runway is ideal,” says Jim Crocker, vice president and general manager of civil space at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.   “It allows us to turn things around quickly, allows us to get samples back from the international space station to the researchers in a very quick time.”

The Dream Chaser is built to take seven crew and cargo to the international space station. It will be able to land on any runway a 737 can land on. If picked to replace the space shuttle, Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada Corporation plan to build a fleet of three to five Dream Chasers.

Sierra Nevada Corp and Lockheed Martin are the first among the three competitors to announce a launch date for an unmanned mission, giving them an early lead in the race to win a NASA contract.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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