Sierra Nevada, Lockheed Martin Expand Dream Chaser Manufacturing

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)
Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Sparks, Nev., March 25, 2014 (SNC PR) – In a press conference held today at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in Michoud, La., Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Dream Chaser® strategic partner Lockheed Martin announced the expansion of SNC Dream Chaser spacecraft orbital vehicle manufacturing operations.

As a valued member of SNC’s Dream Chaser Dream Team, Lockheed Martin is under contract to manufacture the next Dream Chaser composite structure which will be for the first orbital vehicle scheduled to launch on November 1, 2016. The MAF, which is owned and operated by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, has been operational since 1961 and has played a significant role on our nation’s space programs ranging from Apollo to the space shuttle. Today, leveraging the experience, technical expertise and current infrastructure at Michoud, next generation vehicles such as SNC’s Dream Chaser and Lockheed Martin’s Orion are being fabricated within the same walls as   legendary programs.

“Michoud and the state of Louisiana, have a vital role in our nation’s space program,” said Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems. “We look to continue this valuable role through our partnership with Lockheed Martin for the build of our next Dream Chaser composite structure at the Michoud Assembly Facility.  We will be utilizing MAF’s existing facilities, partnerships and the workforce of Louisiana to bring America’s future transportation vehicles for low-Earth orbit  to reality while continuing to expand the Dream Chaser program footprint, which now provides employment in over 30 states.”

SNC chose Lockheed Martin to manufacture the Dream Chaser orbital composite structure based on their rich human spaceflight manufacturing heritage, including building the External Tank for the space shuttle program, and their  work for  the Orion program Fabricating key elements of Dream Chaser structures at MAF leverages Orion manufacturing efforts currently underway, while also taking advantage of existing facilities, relationships and assets, such as the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing (NCAM).

“Lockheed Martin’s history at MAF brings a wealth of experience to the Dream Chaser program,” said Jim Crocker, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems Company Civil Space Line of Business. “Not only are we leveraging manufacturing processes and technology, we are also leveraging the Human Rating Certification methodology developed by the Orion program, which was then tailored to Dream Chaser.”

Currently, the Dream Chaser spacecraft orbital vehicle is in the early stage of the fabrication process at MAF. Fabrication of composite structures started in January 2014 with cabin ring frame production at MAF. Complex part fabrication will begin upon receipt of tooling in April 2014. As each composite structure is completed, it will then be shipped to Lockheed Martin’s facility in Fort Worth, Texas, for assembly and final inspection before being released to SNC.

  • windbourne

    I have to give SNC credit.
    OSC runs around the globe outsourcing everything.
    SNC keeps most of it in-house, but when they outsource, apparently it remains in America. With that approach, it will make it easier to lobby for money.

  • therealdmt

    “…while continuing to expand the Dream Chaser program footprint, which now provides employment in over 30 states.”

    They’ve got the right idea, you gotta give ’em that. With all these partnerships, it’s starting to look like DreamChaser would be hard to cut.

  • Aerospike

    I had similar thoughts while reading this PR.
    They may (or may not) be behind the other teams with regard to technical maturity of their systems (at least behind SpaceX, Boeing is hard to judge), but they certainly are ahead in the political game.

    I’m just not sure if tying their manufacturing with SL/Orion efforts is a very smart move … or a bit too risky.

  • mmealling

    SNC knows this game well. Its ‘a’ strategy but not one I could personally stomach. You could shrink this article down to “SNC pays Landreu/Viter and Cedric Richmond by way of Lockheed-Martin to protect CCICAP from Shelby R-AL”.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    It looks as though, one way or the other, all three spacecraft will get built and get to go to space – first DragonRider, then CST-100 and then DC. The deciding factors in who “wins” and who only flies a few missions, will come down to reusability and turnaround time (re-processing) and above all COST!!!. If SpaceX are able to price DragonRider on F9 as a fully (and perhaps rapidly) reusable human space flight system then the other two will struggle to stay relevant.

  • delphinus100

    And that’s cool. A ‘fly-off’ is preferable to an early downselect. Even the ‘losers’ get valuable experience.

    And with blue Origin still the dark horse…

  • Pete Zaitcev

    There’s just one small hole in this strategy: one SNC is downselected out of CCiAP, all that effort goes to waste.

  • windbourne

    right now, I doubt that there will be a downselection.
    The house republicans are going to have a difficult time arguing this one.

  • Vladislaw

    I believe that landing on terra firma will be a early big issue… Altough spaceX will probably launch first and beat the other two on cost, the water landing is not going to sell as easy as the other two…

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Are you not aware that SpaceX are planning for propulsive touchdowns on land (perhaps in conjunction with parachute deployment for the ultimate in safety). Dragon 2 is designed “to make a soft landing on any solid or liquid surface in the solar system”.

    The initial price is expected to be around $20 million a seat ($140 million mission cost), but with DragonRider touchdowns on land making it reusable, and with F9 reusability too, the price is sure to drop. Even at a fully expendable price of $140 million, do you expect that the other two will ever price a mission below $200 million. Touchdowns on land rather than water may be a “big issue” for some, but $60,000,000+ per mission is also a big issue. Compared to the other two options it’s the human space flight equivalent of “buy two get one free”.

    “the water landing is not going to sell as easy as the other two…”

    $140 million and the price almost certain to decrease in the future, perhaps by a factor of 10, or, $200 million and no hope of the price ever decreasing. Which one would you buy?.

  • Vladislaw

    Yes I was aware, but Musk stated it was going to use water landings to start with. congressional members can use that against spacex ( seems they do not like him or his company) to by pass them.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “…congressional porkonauts….campaign coffers…jobs…”

    “porkonauts” lol, Excellent. OK, I take your point. I guess it also depends on F9 reusability and how quickly land touchdowns get going. Once first stages start returning to land, it would be a brave and/or foolish politician to stand up against such an overwhelming display of technological accomplishment.

    Also, if they do a demonstration of land touchdowns and/or use Cargo Dragon as a demo and maturation route, it would pretty much cancel any opposition to a few early water landings.