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Advanced Engineering 2018

Sierra Nevada Corporation and Lockheed Martin Unveil First Dream Chaser Orbital Spacecraft Composite Structure

19 August 2014

Sierra Nevada Corporation and Lockheed Martin Unveil First Dream Chaser Orbital Spacecraft Composite Structure

Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Space Systems and Dream Chaser program partner, Lockheed Martin have unveiled the Dream Chaser orbital spacecraft composite airframe.

At a joint press conference, the companies explained that 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 Atlas V rocket.

“As a valued strategic partner on SNC’s Dream Chaser Dream Team, Lockheed Martin is under contract to manufacture Dream Chaser orbital structure airframes,” said Mark 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.”

Earlier this year Lockheed Martin says it began fabrication of the Dream Chaser orbital spacecraft structure at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, Louisiana, US. The MAF, which is owned and operated by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, has played a significant role in our nation’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 for integration into the airframe and co-bonded assembly.

Lockheed Martin says its Fort Worth facility manufactures and assembles the world’s top fighter aircraft, the F-35 Lighting II and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Combined with technology mastered at its Skunk Works, the Dream Chaser team is able to leverage their extensive experience in the areas of composites and advanced manufacturing to ensure the Dream Chaser orbital structure is fabricated, built and assembled using best practices. In addition, Lockheed Martin is applying advanced 3D preform technology for 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.

“Lockheed Martin’s depth of aviation and aerospace experience brings a wealth of expertise to the Dream Chaser composite structure development,” said 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, all in the US.

Upon completion of manufacturing Lockheed Martin will transport the Dream Chaser airframe to SNC’s Colorado, US, facility for final integration and assembly.

SNC explains it 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 cost-effective crew and critical cargo transportation to and from low-Earth orbit.

Photo courtesy of SN Corp.





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