Dream Chaser Spacecraft Primary Structure Arrives in Colorado

Primary structure of first Dream Chaser orbiter vehicle. (Credit SNC)

SPARKS, Nev., October 15, 2019 (SNC PR)) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen and CEO Fatih Ozmen, announces the arrival of the primary vehicle structure to the company’s Colorado production facility, kicking off full assembly of the Dream  Chaser®  spacecraft ahead of its first mission for NASA in 2021.  The structure is the largest piece of technology to make up Dream Chaser and the most advanced high-temperature composite spaceframe ever built.

“It’s an extraordinary engineering and manufacturing accomplishment,” said Eren Ozmen, chairwoman and president of SNC. “Our team has been looking forward to this day for a long time so that we can fully assemble America’s spaceplane in preparation for its first mission for NASA.” 

The primary structure is a pressurized composite structure that will contain pressurized payloads heading to the International Space Station. The structure was manufactured by subcontractor Lockheed Martin and recently shipped from their Fort Worth, Texas facility to Louisville, Colorado, where Dream Chaser is being built and integrated by SNC.

“As the first building block of the spacecraft, it represents the first critical path hardware to be received in Colorado and launch of the assembly, integration and test (AI&T) phase of the program,” said former NASA space shuttle commander, astronaut and retired USAF pilot Steve Lindsey, now senior vice president of strategy for SNC’s Space Systems business area.  “Dream Chaser is truly a state-of-art vehicle with cutting edge technology. This structure exemplifies its unique design and complexity.”

Highlights about the design:

  • Uses advanced composite 3D woven assembly methods and represents the most advanced high-temperature composite spaceframe ever built.
  • Structure is about 30 feet long by 15 feet wide and approximately 6 feet high and weighs roughly 2,200 pounds.
  • Materials include carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs), more traditionally referred to as “composites.”
  • The use of CFRP materials instead of aluminum and titanium alloys, lowers manufacturing costs for creating a unique, aerodynamically complex spaceframe design.  
  • Composites decrease the amount of thermal protection required compared to an aluminum primary structure. 
  • Advanced 3D woven construction minimize penetrations to the hot lower aeroshell.

Dream Chaser is scheduled to launch starting in late 2021 for at least six cargo resupply and return services to the International Space Station for NASA under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. The  Dream Chaser Cargo System can carry up to 12,000 pounds of supplies and other cargo, and returns delicate science to Earth with a gentle runway landing.  

About Dream Chaser Spacecraft

Owned and operated by SNC, the Dream Chaser spacecraft is a reusable, multi-mission space utility vehicle. It is 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.

About Sierra Nevada Corporation

Owned by Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen and CEO Fatih Ozmen, SNC is a trusted leader in solving the world’s toughest challenges through best-of-breed, open architecture engineering in Space Systems, Commercial Solutions, and National Security and Defense. SNC is recognized among the three most innovative U.S. companies in space, as a Tier One Superior Supplier for the U.S. Air Force, and as one of America’s fastest growing companies. SNC’s 55-year legacy of state-of-the art civil, military and commercial solutions includes delivering more than 4,000 space systems, subsystems and components to customers worldwide, and participation in more than 450 missions to space, including Mars.