SNC partners with NASA to advance space tech

Thursday October 3, 2019 Tags: Louisville, Sierra Nevada Corp. Space Systems, NASA, Dream Chaser, John Roth, Steve Lindsey

LOUISVILLE/SPARKS, Nev. -- Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced it is extending its partnership with NASA to two entry, descent and landing projects designed to improve affordability and safety of current and future missions.Sierra_Nevada_logo 

The first will test recoverability of the upper stage of a rocket using a deployable decelerator, and the second involves thermal imaging of SNC’s Dream Chaser during reentry and landing.

“SNC is committed alongside NASA to making space more affordable and accessible,” said John Roth, VP of business development for SNC’s Space Systems business area in Louisville.

“These projects support our partnership and our efforts to accomplish both,”

SNC and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. will perform the work over the next 24 months through the agency’s Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO), under non-reimbursable Space Act Agreements. 

Through ACO, NASA works to reduce the development cost of technologies and accelerate the number of emerging commercial space mission capabilities available to support the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, including the Artemis program.

In the first project, Upper Stage Recovery (UPSTAR), SNC and NASA will perform hypersonic testing on a unique deployable decelerator concept that has the potential to lower the cost of launch, and enables return of payloads and other valuable cargo.

SNC said it will collaborate on decelerator designs, followed by NASA’s fabrication and hypersonic testing of decelerator models. Results will inform reentry concepts for Earth, Mars and beyond.

In the second project, SNC will capture high-fidelity thermal images of its Dream Chaser space vehicle as it returns to Earth after delivering cargo to the International Space Station.

NASA’s Scientifically Calibrated In-Flight Imagery team will use an imaging aircraft to collect this data mid-flight. The data will be used to validate the thermal protection system performance of the Dream Chaser and to give NASA valuable insight into vehicle reentry for use on existing and future programs. 

“This is a rare and exciting scientific opportunity to collect high-fidelity thermal imaging data on a controlled reentry vehicle, resulting in the increased safety of the Dream Chaser vehicle.” said former NASA space shuttle commander, astronaut and retired USAF pilot Steve Lindsey, now VP of Space Exploration Systems within SNC’s Space Systems business area.

Owned and operated by SNC, the Dream Chaser spacecraft is a reusable, multi-mission space utility vehicle capable of transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit and is the only commercial, lifting-body vehicle capable of a runway landing.

The Dream Chaser Cargo System was selected by NASA to provide cargo delivery and disposal services to the International Space Station under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. All Dream Chaser CRS-2 cargo missions are planned to land at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.