Sierra Space ad
Sierra Nevada Corp. will advertise its space spinoff, Sierra Space, in pre-roll ads before clips of the "Saturday Night Live" show guest-hosted by Elon Musk. Credit: SNC

WASHINGTON — Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is taking a novel approach to publicizing the spinoff of its space business: buying ads linked to Elon Musk’s appearance on the television show “Saturday Night Live.”

SNC will run “pre-roll” ads on clips from Musk’s appearance on the show May 8 on YouTube. The ads won’t appear on the live television broadcast itself but instead be shown before videos of individual segments of the 90-minute show available on YouTube starting May 9 for one week.

The company produced two ads, one 15 seconds long and the other 30 seconds, promoting its new Sierra Space spinoff. The ads show videos and animations of its Dream Chaser vehicle and proposed commercial space station made of inflatable modules. The ads feature a soundtrack but no narration.

The ads include the Sierra Space logo and the line “Launched by Sierra Nevada Corporation June 2021.” A company spokesperson told SpaceNews that date is when the spinoff of Sierra Nevada’s space business into Sierra Space takes effect. This is the first time, the spokesperson added, that the company has run any kind of online video or television advertising.

SNC announced April 14 that it would spin off its space division into a stand-alone company, Sierra Space. That company will remain a subsidiary of SNC but, as a separate entity, will be better positioned to take advantage of growing opportunities in commercial space.

“We’re really excited about becoming our own independent space company,” Janet Kavandi, executive vice president of space systems at SNC, said at a May 4 event at Space Florida’s Launch and Landing Facility, the former Shuttle Landing Facility runway at the Kennedy Space Center. The event marked the completion of various agreements and licenses to allow SNC’s Dream Chaser to land there at the end of its cargo missions to the International Space Station starting in 2022.

SNC’s owners, Eren and Fatih Ozmen, will retain ownership of Sierra Space, she noted, but suggested it the company would now be able to take in outside investment. “What we hope to do by the separation is to accelerate things,” she said. “There’s a lot of investment interest in commercial space, so carving this part of the company out allows us to take advantage of some of that. That should help us accelerate our plans.”

Musk, the chief executive of SpaceX and electric car company Tesla, is an unconventional choice to host the show, a role normally given to entertainers or, occasionally, athletes or politicians. That has created, at the very least, curiosity about what he might do on the show. “Let’s find out just how live Saturday Night Live really is,” Musk tweeted April 24, shortly after the show announced he would be a guest host.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...