LOUISVILLE - Sierra Nevada Corp. on Thursday announced that the first orbital flight of its Dream Chaser spacecraft will launch Nov. 1, 2016 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Mark Sirangelo, head of SNC's Space Systems division in Louisville, made the announcement during a press conference at Kennedy Space Center in Florida that was streamed live on the Internet.

Dream Chaser will ride to space aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that is being built in Decatur, Alabama.

The composite shell of the Dream Chaser vehicle that will make the first trip to space is being built in Louisiana by Lockheed Martin, while various systems and components continue to be built in Louisville. The 2016 flight will be autonomous, with the first manned flight scheduled for 2017.

"SNC is thrilled to be the first company to confirm a launch date for our country's return to orbital human spaceflight and the restart of human spaceflight operations from Florida's space coast," Sirangelo said.

In addition to the launch date, Sirangelo also announced plans to use the Operations and Checkout facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center for Dream Chaser's pre-flight preparation and post-mission testing. SNC also intends to use NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida.

Sirangelo said SNC is committed to the 2016 launch regardless of whether the company is awarded funding from NASA beyond what has already been committed.

The commitment to Florida, Sirangelo said, could increase the company's employee count in the state from 300 to 500 in coming years. But he said the company also remains committed to Colorado and the other states it operates in.

Sirangelo noted that 15 companies, eight NASA centers and several universities scattered across 30 states have collaborated on the Dream Chaser program as SNC has tried to assemble a "dream team" of the best industry minds. He said that in that respect Florida simply made sense for the launch operations.

"We will see significant and very similar kind of growth of jobs in Colorado," Sirangelo said.

In October, SNC conducted its first free flight test of a Dream Chaser test vehicle in California. That vehicle, which was built in Louisville, has since returned to Louisville to be outfitted for further autonomous and manned test flights in the coming year.