Video: SpaceUp Houston’s Commercial Space Panel

Space Up Houston August 2011 from Schipul – The Web Marketing Co. on Vimeo.

A video of the Commercial Spaceflight panel at SpaceUp Houston that featured:

  • Will Pomerantz: Virgin Galactic
  • Neil Milburn: Armadillo Aerospace
  • Khaki McKee: XCOR Aerospace
  • Mike Burghardt – The Boeing Company
  • John Curry – Sierra Nevada Corporation
  • Jeff Patton: United Launch Alliance.

NASA’s CCDev Program: Where Things Stand

Boeing's proposed commercial capsule.
Artist's conception of Boeing's commercial crew module. (Credit: Boeing)

With Boeing’s selection of Atlas V to launch its CST-100 commercial crew vehicle, the picture relating to NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program has become a bit clearer. Without any delay, let’s dive into it.

A Big Win for Big Rocket

For an “OldSpace” rocket company under threat from new competition, United Launch Alliance (ULA) is doing pretty well here. Companies building three of the four human spacecraft that NASA is funding under CCDev 2 have selected the Atlas V as their launch vehicle. These vehicles include Boeing’s CST-100, Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, and Blue Origin’s orbital vehicle. The other company, SpaceX, has its own Falcon 9 rocket for the spacecraft it is building.


NASA Inks Deal with Sierra Nevada for Dream Chaser Operations

NASA PR — CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is entering into an agreement with Sierra Nevada Space Systems (SNSS) of Sparks, Nev., to offer technical capabilities from the center’s uniquely skilled work force.

Kennedy will help Sierra Nevada with the ground operations support of its lifting body reusable spacecraft called “Dream Chaser,” which resembles a smaller version of the space shuttle orbiter. The spacecraft would carry as many as seven astronauts to the space station.


Sierra Nevada Adds Former NASA Chief Astronaut to Dream Chaser Team

The newest member of the Dream Chaser management team is astronaut Steven Lindsey who will be joining the SNC Dream Chaser team in July as Director of Flight Operations. Steve is the former Chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office, which he ran for four years and is a veteran of four Space Shuttle missions, most recently commanding Space Shuttle mission STS-133.

Former astronaut Jim Voss, a veteran astronaut who flew on five Space Shuttle missions and the Russian Soyuz, and served as a crew member on the International Space Station during Expedition 2. Jim is the SNC Vice President of Space Exploration Systems and is the program executive for the Dream Chaser Program.

SNC has also hired other NASA vets. Read the full press release below. (more…)

Garver Views Commercial Space Hardware at Bigelow, Sierra Nevada Facilities

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver is given a tour of the Bigelow Aerospace facilities by the company's President Robert Bigelow on Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, in Las Vegas. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver visited Bigelow Aerospace and Sierra Nevada Corporation this week to see commercial human spaceflight hardware that to two companies are developing. The following report is based on NASA press releases.

Inflatable Space Stations

In Las Vegas, Garver toured the facilities of Bigelow Aerospace, a company that has been developing expandable space habitats. NASA is evaluating Bigelow’s concept for an expandable module for the International Space Station. If approved, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, could be launched to the station using a commercial cargo flight and robotically attached to the orbiting laboratory.


NASA’s Garver to Visit Bigelow, Sierra Nevada Facilities

Deputy NASA Administrator Lori Garver


NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will travel to Las Vegas and Boulder, Colo., this week to meet with leaders of two commercial space companies, Bigelow Aerospace and Sierra Nevada Corp., and tour their facilities. NASA is partnering with the commercial sector to develop innovative technologies to ensure that the U.S. remains competitive in future space endeavors.

On Friday, Feb. 4, Garver will tour Bigelow Aerospace facilities at 1899 W. Brooks Ave. in North Las Vegas. NASA has been discussing potential partnership opportunities with Bigelow for its inflatable habitat technologies. Garver and the company’s President Robert Bigelow will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. PST. To attend, media representatives must contact Mike Gold at

On Saturday, Feb. 5, Garver will meet with Mark Sirangello, chairman of Sierra Nevada Space Systems. Afterward, she will tour the company’s facility responsible for spacecraft mechanical subsystems, components and satellite manufacturing in Louisville, Colo.


eSpace Seeks Incubator Candidates

BOULDER, Colo. — eSpace: The Center for Space Entrepreneurship, a non-profit business incubator and workforce development organization for aerospace start-up companies, today announced its third round call for new incubator candidates for the eSpace Incubator program.

Current participants and alumni include creators of the flying hybrid, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contestant, an Inventor of the Year, and other entrepreneurs advancing the commercialization of space technologies and supporting the development of a workforce to fuel their growth. To apply, interested parties can find the eSpace Incubator Application at


NASA CCDev Update: Three Down, Two to Go

The government has published status updates on NASA’s five Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) 1 grants which were awarded last February. Sierra Nevada Corporation, Blue Origin and Paragon Space Development Corporation have completed their work as planned by the end of the calendar year. The Bigelow/Boeing team and United Launch Alliance have been given extensions through March and April, respectively. NASA awarded a total of $50 million for the first round; it will award about $200 million in additional grants in March.

Individual status reports follow after the break.

Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser Met Milestones for 2010

SNC Dream Chaser Pressure Shell. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

A Private Space Shuttle Replacement
Technology Review

The company reached all its development milestones for the Dream Chaser last year and is now finishing a battery of tests on the craft’s carbon-composite frame. The shell of the spacecraft must be able to endure heavy loads and intense vibrations. So the Dream Chaser frame has been mounted on an earthquake simulator in a lab at the University of Colorado in Boulder. So far, the design has performed as expected, says Mark Sirangelo, head of Sierra Nevada’s Space Systems division. At facilities in San Diego, the company has been testing the craft’s hybrid rocket motors. In the coming months, the company will put the two together to complete a full prototype, carry it into the air, and drop it to see how it flies….

Dream Chaser Model Undergoes Drop Tests in California Desert

Northwest Helicopter's Steve Watson holds the cable for launch of Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser scale model on it's first captive-carry flight on Dec. 7, 2010, as pilot Doug Uttecht maneuvers Northwest's Bell 206 Jet Ranger to take it up. NASA photo / Tony Landis.


NASA Dryden supported helicopter air-drop flight tests of a 5-foot-long, 15-percent scale model of the Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft design under a Space Act Agreement between the two organizations.

The company’s planned full-size Dream Chaser vehicle, based on the NASA HL-20 lifting body, is designed to carry up to seven people to the International Space Station and back. The vehicle is slated to launch vertically on an Atlas V rocket and land horizontally on conventional runways.

Dryden provided ground and range safety support, including a T-34 chase aircraft for photo and video imagery. The Center also provided scheduling and flight test operations engineering support, along with hangar facilities and workspace.

“Working with the SNC/CU team was a privilege. Their teamwork and dedication were phenomenal, especially through a very dynamic, tiring week of testing,” said Jonathan Pickrel, NASA Dryden’s flight operations engineer overseeing the testing.


Virgin Galactic Extends Space Ambitions into Orbit

Orbital Sciences Corporation's blended lifting body vehicle. (Credit: OSC)


Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, LLC (VG), the world’s first commercial spaceline, today announced that it will be supporting Sierra Nevada Space Systems’ (SNC) and Orbital Sciences Corporation’s (OSC) work on commercial space vehicles.

For the first time it will give not only professional scientists and other crew astronauts but also fare-paying passengers the chance to experience safe orbital space flight at lower costs.


Sierra Nevada Looks at X-34 as Testbed for Dream Chaser Space Shuttle

Absent their vertical tails, the two X-34 aircraft were convoyed from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center to the north gate of Edwards Air Force Base via Rosamond Boulevard Tuesday morning, and then overnight on Highway 58 to the Mojave Air and Spaceport Wednesday. (Credit: NASA Dryden/Tony Landis)

Sierra Nevada Studying X-34 As Rocket Testbed
Aviation Week

Sierra Nevada is emerging as the likely front runner to use the former NASA X-34 reusable launch vehicle demonstrator as a flying testbed for its Dream Chaser orbital space vehicle….


Pictures of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser Shuttle Under Development

SNC Dream Chaser Pressure Shell. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation published a press release and photos outlining progress to date among the five contractors in NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. The pictures above and below show progress by Sierra Nevada Corporation on its 7-person Dream Chaser shuttle.


CCDev Third Quarter Report: Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser - a seven-person space shuttle designed for orbital flight.

Program: NASA Commercial Crew Development (CCDev)
Sierra Nevada Corporation
Dream Chaser shuttle
Award: $20 million

Third Quarter Progress Report
(July 1-Sept. 30, 2010)

The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program continued to make excellent progress per plan during the 3rd quarter of 2010. The CCDev team conducted several internal reviews in July to ensure a proper technical plan and schedule was in place to conduct the Propulsion Module Test Firings in September. Several technical meetings were held in the month including a Reaction Control System Technical Interchange Meeting, mid-term reviews for GNC/Avionics, and a Primary Structure Design and Test Plan review. Additional management staff was added as well as experienced engineers in support of the Structures and Systems Engineering Integrated Product Teams.