NEW ORLEANS, La. -- A team of excited executives from two private companies, Sierra Nevada and Lockheed Martin, gathered at Michoud to watch work on the first pieces of the new Dream Chaser space plane.
"It would be hard for me to believe growing up, that I would be part of a team that's building America's next space plane," said Sierra Nevada Corporation Board Chairman Mark Sirangelo.
"I actually started on the very last Apollo Mission to the Moon at Marshall Space Flight Center," said Lockheed Martin Space Systems Vice President Jim Crocker. "How much better is Dream Chaser going to be? Oh, it's just Awesome."
Dream Chaser looks like a small Space Shuttle, but is designed to carry up to seven astronauts and cargo to the Space Station and back.
"It's composite fuel tanks, modern manufacturing technologies, lighter weight," said Crocker. "It's reusable, faster access."
When asked how much he would like to fly Dream Chaser, Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Project Manager Steve Lindsey says, "Oh I definitely want to fly Dream Chaser."
Retired Astronaut Steve Lindsey flew five Space Shuttle missions, and says Dream Chaser is a high tech replacement for the Russian Soyuz, and Michoud is the place to build major components of it.
"We know that at the core it is all about the people, and we know that the team here is going to build us an exceptional vehicle," said Lindsey.
Dream Chaser is one of the two vehicles designed to carry people into space being built at Michoud. The other is the big Orion capsule. Both of which, are being built by Lockheed Martin crews, and they're sharing the same workforce, about 200 people.
"We're going to be building the structures for Dream Chaser here in Louisiana, here in New Orleans," said Sirangelo, "and that means the next time that Americans go into space on an American spacecraft, it will be in a structure that was built here in Louisiana."
Dream Chaser construction is set to move into high gear next month, with the first craft completed by the end of the year.