WASHINGTON — Sierra Space announced May 31 a strategic partnership with aerospace manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems for production of cargo modules for its Dream Chaser vehicles.
The companies said they signed a letter of intent under which Spirit will assist in the development and production of Shooting Star, the cargo module attached to the aft end of the Dream Chaser lifting body vehicle. That module will support future cargo missions to the International Space Station under Sierra Space’s contract with NASA, and for other applications.
Shooting Star can carry about 4,500 kilograms of pressurized and unpressurized cargo, and also has solar panels and thrusters. While the Dream Chaser itself returns to Earth to fly additional missions, the Shooting Star module is jettisoned before reentry and burns up in the atmosphere, meaning a new module is needed for each mission.
Sierra Space built the first Shooting Star module on its own, but suggested in the statement that partnering with Spirit, a company best known for producing aircraft structures, can lower costs for future modules. “Shooting Star is another innovative technological solution from Sierra Space for the new space economy, and with Spirit as a key partner, we are broadening accessibility to our offering and increasing efficiencies to accelerate more widespread adoption,” Tom Vice, chief executive of Sierra Space, said in a statement.
“Spirit AeroSystems brings unparalleled value in terms of design for manufacturability and industrialization to help scale production rates on the Dream Chaser and its derivatives,” said Tom Gentile, president and chief executive of Spirit AeroSystems, in the statement.
Gentile thanked Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who serves on both the Senate Commerce Committee and the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, for bringing the two companies together. Spirit is headquartered in Wichita, Kansas.
Besides producing Shooting Star cargo modules for future ISS cargo missions, the companies said in the statement that, through the partnership, they will “expand the versatility of variant designs in support of future Sierra Space cargo and service missions.”
The first Dream Chaser mission is scheduled to launch no earlier than the first quarter of 2023 on the second flight of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket. It is the first of at least seven missions under a Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract awarded in 2016.