WASHINGTON — Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice has previously hinted about possible military applications for the company’s Dream Chaser space plane.

On Sept. 8, Sierra Space announced it signed a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA)  with the U.S. Transportation Command to develop concepts for using Dream Chaser space planes and Shooting Star cargo modules for “timely global delivery of Department of Defense logistics and personnel.”

The company joins a list of commercial space players — including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Rocket Lab —  that are exploring options for using rockets and space vehicles to transport military crews and cargo around the world.  

The Dream Chaser winged space plane adds a new feature to the mix, as it launches to space on a rocket but flies back to Earth and lands on a runway.

U.S. Transcom and the U.S. Air Force have shown interest in space vehicles to supplement traditional air, land and surface transportation modes. The vehicles also could support non-combat activities such as humanitarian relief operations and medical missions.

Sierra Space said the CRADA with U.S. Transcom “outlines plans to identify current capabilities and maturity of Sierra Space’s space transportation methods, as well as both observed and projected risks, benefits and additional research and development needed as a result.”

The first Dream Chaser, currently under construction in Louisville, Colorado, is projected to launch in 2023 and begin flying a series of NASA cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station. The Shooting Star cargo module operates attached to the Dream Chaser.

Vice said the national security market is of key interest to Sierra Space. “We are focused on providing unique ultra-high-speed, heavy payload solutions to the Department of Defense for logistics and personnel movement,” he said. “We plan to leverage these technologies to reach anywhere on the globe within three hours.” 

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...