Huntsville International Airport has become the first commercial airport in the United States to receive a license to land commercial space vehicles.

North Alabama’s Huntsville has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a re-entry site for commercial space vehicles.

A re-entry license application was submitted by Huntsville International Airport in November 2021, and approval was contingent upon the finding of no significant impact through the FAA’s Environmental Assessment. The public was invited to participate in the assessment, which examined air space, noise, historical preservation, wildlife and impact to waterways within the anticipated re-entry trajectory of the vehicle.

Initially, the obtaining of the FAA license is specific to Dream Chaser; however, this proof of concept supports other space re-entry vehicles, each of which would require additional FAA licensing.

Sierra Space has been awarded six missions by NASA to resupply the International Space Station via uncrewed vehicles. The effort includes obtaining the FAA License to Operate a Re-entry Site and a Re-entry Vehicle License. With the approval of the Re-entry Site License, the team continues pursuing the Re-entry Vehicle License anticipated to be submitted in June of 2022. Potentially, the FAA could grant the Dream Chaser the option to land at HSV starting in 2023.

“The landing of Dream Chaser at Huntsville International Airport is part of a vision for economic development that continues our legacy in space science and taps into our workforce expertise and assets developed for the International Space Station,” said Tommy Battle, Mayor of Huntsville.

The concept of a space vehicle landing began in 2014 with a consortium of public and private partners including Huntsville International Airport, Teledyne Brown Engineering, Sierra Space, RS&H, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, the City of Huntsville, Madison County, the City of Madison, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the Military Stability Foundation and the State of Alabama.