Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) Space Systems (Louisville, Colo., USA) and Dream Chaser program partner, Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, Md., USA), unveiled on Aug. 1 the Dream Chaser orbital spacecraft composite airframe. This structure will be used to conduct the first orbital launch of the Dream Chaser spacecraft, due to launch in November 2016, atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.
Earlier this year Lockheed Martin began fabrication of the Dream Chaser orbital spacecraft structure at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, La., USA. The MAF, which is owned and operated by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, has played a significant role in America’s space programs from Apollo to the space shuttle, and most recently, Orion spacecraft manufacturing. As each Dream Chaser structural component completes the fabrication and inspection process at MAF, it is transported to Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics facility in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, for integration into the airframe and cobonded assembly.
Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility manufactures and assembles the F-35 Lighting II and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Lockheed Martin is applying advanced 3-D preform technology to Dream Chaser manufacture of joint assembly, thereby reducing overall part and tooling count while improving assembly and integration time. Through these improved processes, SNC and Lockheed Martin are able to improve the overall durability, weight efficiency and affordability of the spacecraft.
“As a valued strategic partner on SNC’s Dream Chaser Dream Team, Lockheed Martin is under contract to manufacture Dream Chaser orbital structure airframes,” says Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems. “We competitively chose
Lockheed Martin because they are a world leader in composite manufacturing, have the infrastructure, resources and quality control needed to support the needs of an orbital vehicle and have a proven track record of leading our nation’s top aviation and aerospace programs. Lockheed Martin’s diverse heritage coupled with their current work on the Orion program adds an extra element of depth and expertise to our program. SNC and Lockheed Martin continue to expand and develop a strong multi faceted relationship.”
“Lockheed Martin’s depth of aviation and aerospace experience brings a wealth of expertise to the Dream Chaser composite structure development,” says Jim Crocker, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems Company Civil Space Line of Business. “We are able to tailor our best manufacturing processes, and our innovative technology from across the corporation to fit the needs of the Dream Chaser program.”
In addition to the current Dream Chaser airframe manufacturing work, Lockheed Martin is also supporting SNC in the areas of vehicle assembly, integration, environmental testing, ground support equipment, flight certification and spacecraft launch and recovery. This work is performed at various Lockheed Martin facilities in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Colorado.
Upon completion of manufacturing, Lockheed Martin will transport the Dream Chaser airframe to SNC’s Louisville, Colo., facility for final integration and assembly.
SNC is working with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program under an existing space act agreement to develop a safe, innovative, modern, flexible and highly capable commercial space transportation system for the 21st Century. Once developed, Dream Chaser will provide the only reusable, human-rated lifting-body spacecraft with a commercial runway landing capability, anywhere in the world, and is on the forefront of the commercial human spaceflight industry, offering safe, reliable and costeffective crew and critical cargo transportation to and from lowEarth orbit.