TORONTO — Sierra Nevada Corp. is taking advantage of the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) here to push its Dream Chaser lifting-body spaceplane to offshore customers, now that NASA has rejected its bid to fly crews to the International Space Station.

The company’s legal challenge to the selection of Boeing and SpaceX to build competing capsules for the U.S. space agency’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program has thrown a blanket over the technical reasons for the choice.

“Because of the protest, I can’t comment,” said Administrator Charles Bolden when asked about the rejection of the Dream Chaser, which has reached atmospheric drop-test maturity with the help of NASA seed money.

Mark Siranlgelo, head of the Sierra Nevada space unit that is developing Dream Chaser, made only an oblique reference to the protest in his remarks at an IAC plenary session on commercial crew developments. But his business-development team was out in force, with presentations planned on the company’s “Global Project” to market spaceflight services to customers worldwide “without the time, resources and financial burden of developing the necessary capabilities or infrastructure to support a mature human spaceflight program.”

Sirangelo also announced a collaboration with Stratolaunch, the startup launch company bankrolled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, to air-launch a scaled-down version of Dream Chaser on the huge flying launch pad that Stratolaunch is developing behind closed doors in a massive new hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

“A 75% reduced-size [Dream Chaser] was selected since it was deemed the smallest scale that could still fit three crewmembers in a seated position and accommodate the hardware, harnessing, and plumbing required,” a Stratolaunch technical paper on the subject said. “All dimensions were scaled linearly to 75% of the commercial crew variant, thus maintaining the shape and curvature of the outer mold line.”

With its ability to land on runways, the addition of a flying launch platform would make Dream Chaser capable of operating pretty much anywhere in the world, geopolitical conditions permitting. Separate IAC papers list the use of Dream Chaser, originally designed for launch on an Atlas V from Cape Canaveral, as a laboratory for microgravity research that would take advantage of its low-g horizontal touchdown to return fragile samples to Earth, and as a tool for removing orbital debris.

“The idea here is to have a single platform that can do multiple kinds of missions, with the crew transportation being one of those missions,” Sirangelo said in response to a question from the standing-room-only international audience. “But it wasn’t the only mission. We see that this vehicle is very capable of doing critical cargo, pressurized cargo back and forth to low Earth orbit; it has the ability to do servicing, that is repair, refueling and potentially movement of satellites in low Earth orbit. We can help do construction or repair, potentially, of the space station or other systems in space, and it can act as a stand-alone platform for laboratory and science work.”

In filing its bid protest on Sept. 26, Sierra Nevada set a 10-day clock running for the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to issue a stay of NASA’s decision. Even without a stay, the protest could place a question mark over future work by Boeing and SpaceX as they prepare their CST-100 and Dragon crew vehicles to meet NASA’s deadline of first flights in 2017. The GAO has until Jan. 5, 2015, to make its decision.

Barring a GAO action that affects their schedules, representatives of both Boeing and SpaceX said they would be able to meet the 2017 deadline. “It’s a simple answer yes,” said Barry Matsumori, senior vice president for business development and sales at SpaceX.