The United Nations is set to launch its first-ever space mission in 2021. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa) will participate in a 14-day flight to low-Earth orbit on board the Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) 30-foot-long Dream Chaser space plane.
The announcement was made Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“One of UNOOSA’s core responsibilities is to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space,” Unoosa Director Simonetta Di Pippo said in a statement. “I am proud to say that one of the ways UNOOSA will achieve this, in cooperation with our partner SNC, is by dedicating an entire microgravity mission to United Nations Member States."
The primary aim of the mission is to ensure that countries that do not have their own space program get an opportunity to fly payloads to low-Earth orbits and conduct microgravity experiments. However, the mission would be open to all U.N. member states.
Payloads will be selected in early 2018. The countries selected to provide the payloads would be asked to cover part of the mission cost, based on “the resources required to host the payload and their ability to pay,” but the major portion of the cost would be borne by sponsors — which Unoosa is still looking for.
“We will continue to work closely with SNC to define the parameters of this mission which, in turn, will provide United Nations Member States with the ability to access space in a cost-effective and collaborative manner within a few short years,” Di Pippo said. “The possibilities are endless.”
The Dream Chaser, which is a reusable spacecraft, can ferry up to seven crew members and cargo to low-Earth orbit destinations, including the International Space Station. Earlier this year, NASA awarded SNC a commercial resupply services contract for cargo delivery services to the space station via the Dream Chaser space plane, disposal of unneeded cargo, and the return of research samples and other cargo from the station back to NASA.
“SNC’s Dream Chaser is the only reusable, lifting-body, multi-mission-spacecraft capable of landing at commercial airports or spaceports able to accommodate large commercial aircraft – anywhere in the world,” SNC said in the statement. “This offers the opportunity to land the United Nations mission in any licensed Member State supplying a payload on the mission.”