The United Nations will launch its first ever mission to space five years from now.
The intergovernmental organization has announced that it intends to send Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser for a space mission in 2021 albeit the spacecraft is still currently in its testing phase.
The 30-foot long Dream Chaser is like the smaller version of NASA's space shuttle orbiter. Just like the U.S. space agency's now retired space shuttle, the Dream Chaser is reusable, launches vertically and lands horizontally on the runway. It can also carry up to seven passengers per flight.
Sierra Nevada's partnership with the UN was signed in June but the target date for the low-Earth orbit mission was only announced on Sept. 27 at the International Astronautical Congress held at the Mexican city of Guadalajara, where SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also presented his space company's plan to help humans colonize planet Mars within 40 to 100 years.
The exact objective of the UN space mission remains vague albeit it is targeted for countries that have no space program of their own. While countries such as the United States, Russia, China and India have resources to explore and conduct studies in space, many nations across the world do not have such opportunity.
United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) said the UN space mission will make space more affordable to nations that cannot otherwise have access to it.
The statement released by Sierra Nevada on Tuesday said that the dedicated Dream Chaser mission aims to provide developing nations the chance to develop and fly microgravity payload for an extended period in orbit. It added the all member states of the UN will also have the opportunity to propose payloads for the 2-week space mission.
UNOOSA director Simonetta Di Pippo said that one of the organization's main responsibilities is to promote cooperation among nations in the peaceful use of outer space.
"We will continue to work closely with SNC to define the parameters of this mission ," Di Pippo said.
Di Pippo said that multiple sources will fund the mission. Countries that send payloads to space will also cover some of the expenses since they will be asked to pay a pro-rated portion of the mission cost based on the resources that will be required to host their payload and how much they can afford.
Large portions of the expenses, however, will be covered by major sponsors. The UNOOSA said that it is currently looking for sponsors to help fund the mission.