Sierra Nevada Completes Key Step for NASA’s NextSTEP-2 Long-Duration Space Travel Study

Concept image of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s habitation prototype, based on its Dream Chaser cargo module. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev., August 9, 2018 (Sierra Nevada PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) completed a NASA study for the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), which is the first module planned to be launched for NASA’s Gateway in lunar orbit. The study was performed under one of SNC’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) contracts. SNC plans to submit a bid to win the NASA contract when the agency issues its formal solicitation for the element later this year.

“Our design provides pressurized volume in addition to the capabilities NASA requires,” said Steve Lindsey, vice president of SNC’s Space Exploration Systems and former NASA space shuttle commander. “We are providing significant mission flexibility for transportation and operations from low-Earth orbit to lunar orbit.”  Lindsey flew on five space shuttle missions for NASA and commanded three assembly and test missions to the International Space Station. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2015.

The study included a comprehensive look to determine the operational uses of the PPE, if it fits NASA’s needs and the opportunity for multiple commercial applications.  SNC was one of five companies selected for the study.

The PPE is the first element of the lunar Gateway and represents the beginning of human lunar and deep space presence in the 21st century.

SNC’s NextSTEP-2 architecture concept works toward the Gateway initiative, which could be used for lunar exploration or an outpost for long-duration travel, such as missions to Mars.  The PPE provides power generation and distribution, propulsion for orbit maneuvering and communications for the Gateway concept.  SNC continues to develop the Gateway architecture through the company’s NextSTEP-2 Appendix A contract.

The proposed SNC PPE design leverages technology developed for the Dream Chaser® spacecraft cargo module which allows SNC to capitalize on previous technology and testing, therefore reducing costs.

Other PPE attributes:

  • Aerojet Rocketdyne Solar Electric Propulsion Module featuring four 13 kW Advanced Electric Propulsion System thrusters
  • Logistics & Control Module, derived from SNC’s Cargo Module used under our Commercial
  • Resupply Services 2 Contract (CRS-2) with NASA, provides avionics, Guidance, Navigation & Control, pressurized volume for cargo delivery & habitable volume

PPE helps further SNC’s work on our NextSTEP-2 Appendix-A habitat contract, which includes building a prototype in Louisville, Colorado.

About Sierra Nevada Corporation

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is a trusted leader in solving the world’s toughest challenges through advanced engineering technologies in Space Systems, Commercial Solutions, and National Security and Defense. Honored as one of the most innovative U.S. companies in space, SNC’s Space Systems business area designs and manufactures advanced spacecraft and satellite solutions, space habitats and environmental systems, propulsion systems, precision space mechanisms and subsystems, and SNC’s celebrated Dream Chaser® spacecraft. With 30 years of space heritage working with the U.S. government, commercial customers, and the international market, SNC has participated in more than 450 successful space missions and delivered 4,000+ systems, subsystems and components around the world. For more information, visit

  • P.K. Sink

    Very cool. SNC has got a lot going on between it’s Dream Chaser cargo plane and this Lunar Gateway PPE. Lotsa luck guys.

  • windbourne

    I wish that they would do this LOP-G gateway cleaner. In particular, everything needed for lifesupport should be in a module and everything needed for the tug should be in another. If they do that, then they can use these in parallel. For example, it would be nice to have say 3-4 ECLSS modules on a station or ship so that if you lose one, another can take over.
    Likewise with the tug units, they could easily add multiples to the bottom, or even add different types.

  • P.K. Sink

    You may get your wish:

    …Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said the agency would be open to selecting more than one proposal for development and in-space demonstration depending on what was proposed, and at what price.

    “The architecture is open enough that we can tolerate more than one of these Power and Propulsion Elements in the vicinity of the moon, if we got the right prices and the right considerations,” he said. “The architecture is broad enough and open enough that we can accommodate more of these in orbit.”…