LOUISVILLE, Colo. – Jan. 22, 2024 – Sierra Space, a leading commercial space company building the first end-to-end business and technology platform in space, has achieved a groundbreaking milestone by successfully designing, manufacturing, assembling and testing its first full-scale, expandable space station structure, alongside exclusive softgoods technology partner ILC Dover.

By the Numbers:

  • Company’s first stress test of a full-size, inflatable space station structure
  • Test unit stood over 20’ tall and was comparable in size to an average family home
  • The article was 300 m³ in volume, or 1/3rd the volume of the Intl. Space Station
  • Test results exceeded NASA’s recommended x4 safety levels by 27%

The pressure shell for Sierra Space’s LIFE™ (Large Integrated Flexible Environment) habitat is made of expandable “softgoods,” or woven fabrics that perform like a rigid structure once inflated. During an Ultimate Burst Pressure (UBP) test, the teams inflate the test article until it fails, which helps determine how strong its softgoods materials would be under extreme stresses in the harsh environment of space. The full-scale unit in this test reached 77 psi before it burst, which well exceeds (+27%) NASA’s recommended level of 60.8 psi (maximum operating pressure of 15.2 psi multiplied by a safety factor of four).

The achievement underscores Sierra Space’s commitment to advancing the cutting-edge design and development of commercial space stations and positions the company well ahead of its global competitors. The company’s expandable technology provides for on-orbit infrastructure volume greater than 5x the fairing volume used to transport the system to orbit.

“We are driving the reinvention of the space station that will shape a new era of humanity’s exploration and discovery in Low Earth Orbit and beyond. Sierra Space’s inflatable space station technology offers the absolute largest in-space pressured volume, the best unit economics per on-orbit volume and lowest launch and total operating costs,” said Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice. “Having the best unit economics positions Sierra Space as the category leader in microgravity research and product development, providing customers with the most attractive return on their investment.”

Sierra Space’s LIFE is packed inside a standard five-meter rocket fairing and inflates to the size of a three-story apartment building on orbit. In just three launches, the modular LIFE units can create a living and working environment in space that is larger, volume-wise than the entire International Space Station (ISS). In coming years, the company will iterate on larger designs. A 1400-cubic-meter version, packaged inside a seven-meter rocket fairing, for example, would surpass the size of the ISS in a single launch.

Building upon this successful test, Sierra Space will embark on an aggressive 2024 testing campaign at both sub- and full-scale, including a series of UBP tests in tandem with early-stage development of the primary Atmospheric Barrier and Micrometeoroid Orbital Debris (MMOD) layers.

“Over the past two years, our team has worked tirelessly to reach this point. Working with our key suppliers and strategic partners, Sierra Space has guided our collaborative effort and reached new heights with this latest UBP test,” said Shawn Buckley, Senior Director of Engineering and Chief Technologist of EarthSpace Systems. “We have assembled the expertise and knowledge that is required to propel this amazing technology to the next steps – Low Earth Orbit and beyond.”

The test specifically focused on the LIFE habitat pressure shell – otherwise known as the restraint layer – which is comprised of Vectran straps along with a series of other high-strength fabric materials. Sierra Space, working with its exclusive softgoods technology partner ILC Dover, has specifically designed and tested Vectran straps at the component and sub-scale levels prior to this full-scale test. Vectran is stronger than steel when inflated on-orbit and provides high margins of safety under pressure.

“Our expertise in space softgoods and passion for innovation continue to position ILC Dover and Sierra Space as the leading co-developers of inflatable space habitats,” said Rob Reed, President of Space & Engineered Solutions at ILC Dover. “The successful full-scale burst test is an undeniable leap toward a new reality of how humans live and operate in space, and we are proud to celebrate this milestone as we work to expand humanity’s capabilities in Low Earth Orbit.”

This recent full-scale UBP test was performed with support from NASA via a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement in which NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center provides services to Sierra Space in support of its exploration and commercial Low Earth Orbit technology development and risk reduction activities. This test occurred in Huntsville, Ala., on Redstone Arsenal adjacent to the historic Saturn 1/1B test stand.

About Sierra Space

Sierra Space is a leading commercial space company at the forefront of innovation and the commercialization of space in the Orbital Age®, building an end-to-end business and technology platform in space to benefit life on Earth. With more than 30 years and 500 missions of space flight heritage, the company is reinventing both space transportation with Dream Chaser®, the world’s only commercial spaceplane, and the future of space destinations with the company’s inflatable and expandable space station technology. Highly scalable and flexible, this innovative “softgoods” technology will define a new generation of space stations. Sierra Space also builds and delivers a host of systems and subsystems across solar power, mechanics and motion control, environmental control, life support, propulsion and thermal control, offering myriad space-as-a-service solutions for the new space economy.

Source: Sierra Space

LOUISVILLE, Colo. – Jan. 16, 2024 – Sierra Space, a leading commercial space company building the first end-to-end business and technology platform in space, announced today that it has won a significant contract by the Space Development Agency (SDA) for 18 missile warning and tracking satellites.

The prime contract, valued at $740 million and awarded through an Other Transaction Authority (OTA), is for the design, production, delivery, operations and sustainment of 16 missile warning and tracking satellites and two satellites for missile defense and fire control. The contract includes two operational ground segments as well.

The satellites are for the portion of SDA’s proliferated space warfighting architecture known as Tranche 2 Tracking Layer, part of the Defense Department’s Low Earth Orbit constellation. Sierra Space’s solution will accelerate the capability to provide global, persistent indications, detection, warning, and tracking of conventional and advanced missile threats, including hypersonic missile systems. The company’s solution also delivers preliminary missile defense capability by incorporating fire control quality sensors into the constellation; it will generate fire control quality tracks that enable missile defense kill chains, a critical defense capability, to the warfighter.

“Under the $740 million SDA contract, Sierra Space will deliver an 18-satellite constellation for missile detection, and warning, with fire control quality tracks”, said Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice. “Given the strength of our experienced mission-driven team, disruptive innovative technologies, employment of differentiated commercial practices, significant investments in systems and infrastructure, and the ability to execute with reliable performance and on-time delivery of warfighting capabilities to orbit, we have secured approximately $1.3 billion in next generation space-based national security programs.”

“Missile warning and missile defense is critical to the safety and security of our nation and its people,” added Rusty Thomas, Chief Technology Officer and SVP/GM Space Applications at Sierra Space. “Past winners of prior tranches for the tracking layer mission have been traditional big primes. This award puts Sierra Space on the short list of companies that can deliver, as a prime, in missions critical to the warfighter.”

The tracking layer satellites carry two configurations of optical sensor payloads built by Sierra Space mission payload partner GEOST, a LightRidge Solutions company. GEOST develops and builds high performance, multi-orbit optical payloads that are affordable, low-weight and low-power, with integrated on-orbit processing and ground-based infrastructure.

This latest contract award makes Sierra Space the SDA’s newest supplier of satellites. The agreement includes a $20 million incentive payment for on-time delivery. The company will develop, integrate and test its space vehicles at Sierra Space’s satellite production facilities in Colorado.

About Sierra Space

Sierra Space is a leading commercial space company at the forefront of innovation and the commercialization of space in the Orbital Age®, building an end-to-end business and technology platform in space to benefit life on Earth. With more than 30 years and 500 missions of space flight heritage, the company is reinventing both space transportation with Dream Chaser®, the world’s only commercial spaceplane, and the future of space destinations with the company’s inflatable and expandable space station technology. Highly scalable and flexible, this innovative “softgoods” technology will define a new generation of space stations. Sierra Space also builds and delivers a host of systems and subsystems across solar power, mechanics and motion control, environmental control, life support, propulsion and thermal control, offering myriad space-as-a-service solutions for the new space economy.

Source: Sierra Space

LOUISVILLE, Colo. – Dec. 15, 2023 – Sierra Space, a leading commercial space company building the first end-to-end business and technology platform in space to benefit of life on Earth, has delivered the first Dream Chaser spaceplane, Tenacity, to NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio. Dream Chaser, the world’s only commercial spaceplane, has entered the final testing phase ahead of its first flight in 2024. The testing campaign will confirm the spacecraft’s resilience to the challenges of launch and the demanding conditions of space as it prepares for its inaugural mission to the International Space Station under a multi-mission NASA contract.

Dream Chaser joins Sierra Space’s cargo module, Shooting Star™, which arrived at the NASA test facility in November. The two vehicles are set to be stacked in launch configuration and undergo rigorous environmental testing starting in the Mechanical Vibration Facility. The test will subject them to the extreme conditions of launch vibrations on the world’s most powerful spacecraft shaker table. Sierra Space is unwavering in its commitment to ensuring the utmost reliability of its cutting-edge technologies. Dream Chaser, crafted in tandem with the groundbreaking Shooting Star cargo module, will reinvent space transportation and usher in the burgeoning era of space commercialization known as the Orbital Age®.

“At Sierra Space, we are ushering in the next industrial revolution with a business and technology platform that provides our customers with a complete turn-key solution offering space as a service,” said Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice. “Our platform includes Dream Chaser, a revolutionary, highly reusable commercial spaceplane with global runway access, and the first business-ready commercial space station, leveraging the most advanced expandable structural architecture that will exponentially decrease the cost of product development and manufacturing in space.”

Selected by a NASA contract:

Dream Chaser was selected by NASA for cargo delivery, return and disposal service for the International Space Station under the Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) contract.

High reusability and flexibility:

Dream Chaser’s highly customizable design makes it ideal for a range of applications, providing fast turnaround times to support various LEO needs. The fleet will provide greater efficiencies with high reusability and mark the beginning of a new era of space commercialization. The multi-mission spaceplane fleet is designed to transport crew and cargo to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and can be customized for both domestic and international customers for global operations.

NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility:

NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility is part of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Located on 6,400 acres in Sandusky, Ohio, it is home to some of the world’s largest and most capable space simulation test facilities, where ground tests are conducted for the U.S. and international space and aeronautics communities.

About Sierra Space

Sierra Space is a leading commercial space company at the forefront of innovation and the commercialization of space in the Orbital Age®, building an end-to-end business and technology platform in space to benefit life on Earth. With more than 30 years and 500 missions of space flight heritage, the company is reinventing both space transportation with Dream Chaser®, the world’s only commercial spaceplane, and the future of space destinations with the company’s inflatable and expandable space station technology. Highly scalable and flexible, this innovative “softgoods” technology will define a new generation of space stations. Sierra Space also builds and delivers a host of systems and subsystems across solar power, mechanics and motion control, environmental control, life support, propulsion and thermal control, offering myriad space-as-a-service solutions for the new space economy.

Source: Sierra Space

LOUISVILLE, Colo. – Nov. 30, 2023 – Sierra Space, a leading pureplay commercial space company building the first end-to-end business and technology platform in space, announced today the commencement of a comprehensive testing campaign for the Shooting Star™ cargo module at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio. This pivotal phase of testing aims to validate the spacecraft’s resilience to the demands of launch and the challenging conditions of space as Shooting Star is readied for its inaugural mission to the International Space Station.

Sierra Space remains committed to ensuring the utmost reliability of its cutting-edge technologies. The Sierra Space Shooting Star cargo module, designed in tandem with the revolutionary Dream Chaser® spaceplane, is set to redefine cargo capabilities, power and propulsion systems in space. “This transformative Sierra Space technology will define the next era of space commercialization,” said Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice. “As we embark on this journey to build a platform in space to benefit life on Earth, our commitment to innovation, reliability and sustainability remains unwavering and is exemplified in our Shooting Star cargo module.”

Key Features of the Shooting Star Cargo Module:

  • Operates seamlessly with the Dream Chaser® spaceplane
  • Internal cargo capacity of 7,000 pounds, complemented by three external mounting points
  • Scheduled NASA resupply missions for the International Space Station beginning in 2024
  • Compatibility with a diverse range of current and future launch vehicles

Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) Cargo Services for NASA:

The Shooting Star cargo module is slated to transport critical science, food and cargo to the International Space Station under a NASA Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) contract. Accessible via the aft hatch, crews can seamlessly navigate through the module to the Dream Chaser, creating an efficient process for cargo placement and astronaut operations.

Disposal Services:

In an environmentally conscious approach, the Shooting Star offers cargo disposal services, ensuring the safe incineration of the module in Earth’s atmosphere post-separation from the Dream Chaser. This sustainable practice aligns with Sierra Space Corporation’s commitment to responsible space commercialization.

NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility:

NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility is part of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Located on 6,400 acres in Sandusky, Ohio, it is home to some of the world’s largest and most capable space simulation test facilities, where ground tests are conducted for the U.S. and international space and aeronautics communities. Following the Shooting Star, the first Sierra Space Dream Chaser spaceplane has also arrived at the Neil Armstrong Test Facility. The two vehicles will be stacked in launch configuration and undergo rigorous environmental testing starting in the Mechanical Vibration Facility, subjecting them to the extreme conditions of launch vibrations on the world’s most powerful spacecraft shaker table.

About Sierra Space

Sierra Space is a leading, pureplay commercial space company at the forefront of innovation and the commercialization of space in the Orbital Age™, building an end-to-end business and technology platform in space to benefit life on Earth. With more than 30 years and 500 missions of space flight heritage, the company is enabling the future of space transportation with Dream Chaser®, the world’s only commercial spaceplane, and is bringing LIFE™ (Large Integrated Flexible Environment) to low-Earth orbit with its modular, three-story commercial habitation and science platform. Both Dream Chaser and LIFE are central components to Orbital Reef, a mixed-use business park in LEO being developed by principal partners Sierra Space and Blue Origin, which is expected to be operational by the end of the decade. Sierra Space also builds and delivers a host of systems and subsystems across solar power, mechanics and motion control, environmental control, life support, propulsion and thermal control, offering myriad space-as-a-service solutions for the new space economy.

Sierra Space

Source: Sierra Space

LOUISVILLE, Colo. – Nov. 13, 2023 – Sierra Space, a leading pureplay commercial space company building the first end-to-end business and technology platform in space, announced today that it is on the brink of a historic moment as the company prepares for its biggest-ever “burst test” of Sierra Space’s inflatable, expandable space station technology.

This groundbreaking endeavor marks a critical step in Sierra Space’s co-development of Orbital Reef with Blue Origin, as the company plans to stress test – for the first time in history – a full-scale version of its LIFE™ habitat structure and bring the unit to failure under pressure. LIFE is constructed of high-strength “softgoods” materials, which are sewn and woven fabrics – primarily Vectran – that become rigid structures when pressurized on orbit. To date, Sierra Space has conducted five stress tests on subscale test articles; this next one will be 18x larger – nearly 300 m³ of pressurized volume.

Scheduled for December 2023 at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., the Ultimate Burst Pressure (UBP) test is expected to provide Sierra Space and the Orbital Reef program team with critical data in support of NASA’s softgoods certification guidelines. The over-pressurization to failure during the test will not only demonstrate the habitat’s capabilities but also open avenues for structural enhancements.

Sierra Space’s expandable space station module technology is highly scalable and flexible to all existing and planned launch vehicle fairing sizes. The softgoods structures launch packed inside conventional rocket fairings – 5m, 7m, 9m and beyond – inflating to capacity on orbit. Low-volume launches become high-volume space stations. The module volume will always be the square of its expansion diameter. For example, with a 2.5x expandable configuration, the volume would be 6.25x of a rocket fairing.

“Sierra Space’s inflatable space station module technology offers the absolute largest in-space pressured volume, the best unit economics per on-orbit volume and lowest launch and total operating costs,” said Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice. “Having the best unit economics positions Sierra Space as the category leader in microgravity research and product development – providing customers with the most attractive return on their investment.”

Key Dimensions:

  • Full scale LIFE habitat with a height of 20.5 feet (Total height with ground support equipment: 29.5 feet)
  • Diameter: 27 feet
  • Volume: 10,000 cubic feet (283.17 m3)

Current Progress:

All components and ground support equipment are in the integration phase at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Upcoming Steps: Softgoods integration into the test stand will be followed by transportation, utilizing the legendary NASA KAMAG transporter tractor, to the historic testing location adjacent to the flame trench of the Saturn 1/1B test stand — where NASA tested rockets for the Apollo program. Setup and calibration of sensors and cameras, alongside operational run-throughs, will prepare for the full-scale UBP test in December 2023.

Objectives and Lessons Learned:

The recent successes of subscale burst tests have emboldened Sierra Space to undertake the full-scale burst test with confidence. Sierra Space aims to further refine its technical approach to safety factors and structural integrity through this test. Insights from previous tests contribute to technical maturation in support of higher-fidelity manufacturing processes.

Core Materials and Blanking Plates:

  • The restraint layer for LIFE is constructed of high-strength “softgoods” materials, which are sewn and woven fabrics – primarily Vectran – that become rigid structures when pressurized
  • Under normal operating pressure, the Vectran softgoods materials become 5x stronger than steel, exceeding station lifetime performance safety factors
  • The restraint layer is complemented by a bladder allowing controlled inflation and pressurization to ultimate burst pressure test failure
  • Two metallic blanking plates are strategically inserted into the restraint layer, designed for seamless integration into the structural shell with minimal performance degradation or knockdown; blanking plates are metal placeholders for integrating windows, airlocks, robotic arms and other features, into the softgoods layer

About Sierra Space

Sierra Space is a leading, pureplay commercial space company at the forefront of innovation and the commercialization of space in the Orbital Age™, building an end-to-end business and technology platform in space to benefit life on Earth. With more than 30 years and 500 missions of space flight heritage, the company is enabling the future of space transportation with Dream Chaser®, the world’s only commercial spaceplane, and is bringing LIFE™ (Large Integrated Flexible Environment) to low-Earth orbit with its modular, three-story commercial habitation and science platform. Both Dream Chaser and LIFE are central components to Orbital Reef, a mixed-use business park in LEO being developed by principal partners Sierra Space and Blue Origin, which is expected to be operational by the end of the decade. Sierra Space also builds and delivers a host of systems and subsystems across solar power, mechanics and motion control, environmental control, life support, propulsion and thermal control, offering myriad space-as-a-service solutions for the new space economy.

Source: Sierra Space