Sierra Nevada Corp. Expands Work in Huntsville with Marshall Space Flight Center and Teledyne Brown for ‘Dream Chaser’


SNC’s Dream Chaser on Runway at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Dawn

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces the expansion of its Dream Chaser® program team and scope of work in Huntsville with the signing of a Space Act Agreement (SAA) Annex with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and a Teaming Agreement with Teledyne Brown Engineering (TBE).

"We believe space is a team sport," said Mark Sirangelo, Corporate Vice President and head of SNC’s Space Systems. During today’s press conference at MSFC Sirangelo presented details of the two new agreements that advance the Dream Chaser spacecraft to enable science payload operations and technology development in support of continued growth and utilization of space and the International Space Station (ISS).

"That means going to people who have the expertise, the knowledge and the ability to make us better; and really what today is about is that story - we're adding to our team."

Sirangelo outlined the substantial contribution each partner will make towards the Dream Chaser Advanced Development program.

“Today we are pleased to announce that we are increasing our presence in Alabama by expanding our relationship with the Marshall Space Flight Center and adding Teledyne Brown Engineering to our growing Dream Chaser team," Sirangelo said.

"Each of these organizations provide experts in their respective fields and have already begun applying their invaluable knowledge and experience. We will work together to evaluate future low-Earth orbit (LEO) mission concepts for the Dream Chaser in the area of scientific payload operations with the goal of enhancing and enabling science in LEO. We are honored they are joining our already dynamic list of partners – our  'Dream Team' - which now includes over 15 companies, seven NASA centers and a growing list of universities.  The team spans more than 30 states and several countries with the common goal of furthering the development of the multi-mission Dream Chaser spacecraft.”

So what is 'Dream Chaser'? Think of it like a mobile science lab much like we have on the space station.

"It has the capability of doing on-orbit research in a variety of different ways and we think one of the most critical ways to do that is looking at the whole bio-science area," Sirangelo said. Which is why SNC is reaching out to other state entities like UAH, UAB, and Hudson-Alpha Institute for Biotechnology.

SNC’s Space System’s Advanced Development group is responsible for overseeing the multi-mission capability of the Dream Chaser spacecraft which includes crew-capable LEO servicing, science and transportation missions. The inherent capabilities of the reusable Dream Chaser lifting body spacecraft, as illustrated by its low-g reentry and runway landing, make it an ideal vehicle to support a variety of LEO missions.

SNC selected MSFC’s Mission Operations Laboratory (MOL), an authority in mission operations for science payloads aboard the ISS, to collaborate with SNC’s engineers to evaluate Design Reference Missions, operations planning, training and mission execution for utilizing the Dream Chaser as a platform to complement and support science being performed on the ISS.

“We are glad to share the knowledge and expertise we’ve gained through our decades of experience with payload development for space shuttle missions and operating and maintaining science research on the International Space Station,” said Patrick Scheuermann, Marshall director. “We have enjoyed a successful partnership with Sierra Nevada Corporation for more than two years and look forward to continued collaboration.”

The MOL is run by a dedicated team of civil servants and experienced commercial contractors led by Teledyne Brown Engineering, a close partner to SNC. Under the Teaming Agreement, SNC and TBE are working together to evaluate strategic and technical partnership opportunities for the Dream Chaser Advanced Development team and other space systems collaborations.

“We are very pleased to team with Sierra Nevada Corporation in the development of the Dream Chaser,” said Rex D. Geveden, executive vice president, Teledyne Technologies Incorporated.  “This is an exceptional opportunity to apply our capabilities in payload development and integration to an exciting new space transportation system.”

SNC signed its first Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Marshall Center in 2012 leveraging MSFC’s expertise and resources to perform wind tunnel testing on various configurations of the Dream Chaser/United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch stack in MSFC’s trisonic wind tunnel lab. The data generated from the series of tests helped define the vehicles’ aerodynamic characteristics in flight.

"It's quite the collection," Sirangelo says, "and when I travel around the country I get to meet people who really are so thrilled to be part of the next generation of America's space program - it's really quite rewarding to see that."

The collaboration and 'team sport' mentality is the predominant sentiment in the new frontier of commercial space exploration. But in an era when countless budgets are scrutinized and NASA is essentially forced to validate themselves and their mission, we asked SNC president Sirangelo why teamwork and shared talents are so important these days - not only for self-preservation, but in hopes of edifying the next generation of space explorers.

"I wanted to really congratulate NASA on having the courage to look at this differently. It's not easy for a government agency to look at the future and say, 'we need to think about how we are going to work together,' this is a public-private partnership - the program that we're involved in -  and it's a unique one in many ways and so far a very successful one."

Some critics and even legislators would say, 'why explore space'? Sirangelo has an easy answer for that - for SNC, he says, it comes down to obligation and accountability.

"We're doing this in many ways to stimulate the stem-education side of our country - to stimulate our thought process. Most the people, if you talk to people in the space industry, myself included, we got stimulated at one point in time," Sirangelo points out. "Something happened in our past that made us realize this is where we wanted to be. And part of our obligation as leaders in this industry is to look to the future and say, what can we do to stimulate the next generation of people."

SNC opened its Huntsville office on Perimeter Parkway in 2011 and occupies hangar space at the Huntsville airport. In addition to the many subcontracts supported throughout the state of Alabama, SNC operates three of its six business areas in Huntsville, including Communications, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management, Integrated Mission Systems, and Space Systems, which leads its Dream Chaser thermal protection system development in Huntsville.

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