Space Commerce

Sierra Nevada Selects Lockheed Martin as Dream Chaser Partner

By Marc Boucher
January 30, 2013
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Sierra Nevada Selects Lockheed Martin as Dream Chaser Partner
Artist illustration of Dream Chaser and ISS.
Sierra Nevada.

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) today announced they had selected Lockheed Martin Space Systems as a partner on its Dream Chaser program in its ongoing effort for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Lockheed Martin was competitively selected and will be the exclusive partner to SNC on its NASA Certification Products Contract (CPC).

Lockheed will build the composite structure for the Dream Chaser at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. SNC was awarded $10 million for CPC Phase 1 to work with NASA towards government certification of the SNC Dream Chaser orbital crew transportation system.

SNC would not reveal exactly how much of the contract would go to Lockheed other than saying it was a multi-million dollar contract.

Of note, Lockheed Martin is already developing NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and will use that experience to help the Dream Chaser program.

“The CPC contract offers the Dream Chaser team the opportunity for a more robust technical interchange with NASA as we work to develop a safe, reliable orbital crew transportation system. This contract capitalizes on SNC’s success working with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, as well as Lockheed Martin’s expertise in developing and certifying Orion’s beyond low Earth orbit human spaceflight hardware as part of NASA’s Exploration Program. Our team will work towards the common goal of certifying the Dream Chaser to provide the next generation human transportation system,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems.

“We are pleased to join the SNC Dream Chaser team. Lockheed Martin brings with it tremendous human-rated space flight knowledge from our significant experience with large, human-flight structures, including 135 flights with the Space Shuttle’s external fuel tanks. We feel we can share many synergies between the Orion exploration spacecraft and the Dream Chaser lifting body space vehicle. This provides a great opportunity to take NASA’s investments in crew exploration capabilities and leverage them toward commercial transportation to low Earth orbit,” said Jim Crocker, vice president and general manager, Civil Space, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.

Aside from the Lockheed Martin news, SNC spent some tome providing additional information about the Dream Chaser program.

Sirangelo said that it had met all of its milestones to date on the Dream Chaser program and that it was actually under budget.

Once the first Dream Chaser test article is built it will be operated and maintained on the space coast of Florida though no agreement has been made with NASA or any organization yet to host the first test spacecraft.

Sirangelo went on to say that no set number of test flights had been set but that the first ones would be 30-40 seconds in duration.

Jim Voss, vice president of Space Exploration Systems and Dream Chaser program manager added to Sirangelo’s remarks by saying that they’ll fly the Dream Chaser until they get the right data but that it might only be four flights after the initial one.

Voss went on to say that the Dream Chaser tests will take place from an altitude of 12,000 feet and would reach peak speeds of 300 knots before landing at 180 knots.

In answering a question on the lifespan of the Dream Chaser Sirangelo answered that they were baselining a mission lifetime of 25-30 flights for each Dream Chaser vehicle, though it could be longer.

Sirangelo also defined other potential missions for the Dream Chaser. He characterized the spacecraft as a transportation system for low earth orbit. Possible missions could include unmanned long duration platform for science, servicing in space including satellite servicing, provide transportation to other destinations if they exist for private companies or foreign countries, and lastly for suborbital tourists.

Sirangelo began the news conference by indicating that SNC was a private employee owned company with $1.5 billion in revenues with no bedt and revenue growth at 300% in the last few years. SNC now has 2700 employees with 1000 in Colorado.

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SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.