The United Nations intends to make its mark in outer space soon. The world organization announced at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico that it is set to launch its first space mission on board the Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser craft in 2021.
The mission intends to give developing nations that don’t have their own space programs the opportunity to fly payloads in microgravity, The Verge reports. Developing countries are the priority, but any UN member state can submit proposals to the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) “on anything from developing materials that resist corrosion in space to studying climate change and food security.” UNOOSA will choose the payloads by 2018 and they will be launched 1,200 miles above the Earth in 2021. Countries that lack the scientific manpower to design their own payloads can also seek technical support from UNOOSA.
Simonetta Di Pippo, director of UNOOSA, said in a statement,
One of UNOOSA’s core responsibilities is to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space.
She added that the microgravity mission will help developing nations that don’t have the financial capacity or infrastructure to come up with their own space programs.
Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser is a reusable space craft, 30 feet long and fitted with small wings so it lands gently on a runway. It can be used to transport both crew members and cargo to low orbit. While still under development, Sierra Nevada is looking to resume test flights in December. Sierra Nevada was recently awarded a NASA contract, along with SpaceX and Orbital ATK, to restock the International Space Station from 2019 to 2024.
The UNOOSA is currently looking for backers to fund the mission. The countries willing to send payloads to space will cover some of the costs, based on their economic status.
The UN’s ultimate goal is to make space exploration and experimentation possible and accessible for countries that might otherwise never get the opportunity. Di Pippo said, “The possibilities are endless.”