Dual-Purpose Spacecraft with Military Potential is Being Developed by Sierra Space

Dual-Purpose Spacecraft with Military Potential is Being Developed by Sierra Space

Sierra Space is seeking to increase its market share in the national security space by entering new markets like as transportation and in-orbit services, following its recent acquisition of a significant contract to build military satellites.

The reusable spaceplane Dream Chaser, which is intended to transport supplies and freight to the International Space Station, and Sierra Space’s collaboration with Blue Origin on the building of a commercial space station are the company’s most well-known achievements.

However, Erik Daehler, vice president of orbital systems and services at Sierra Space, told that the company is also making headway in the national security space market, with orders worth $1.3 billion.

Overseeing the conversion of Sierra Space’s orbital vehicle technology from their commercial and civil origins into military forms to assist defense activities is Daehler, a former employee of defense firms Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

A $740 million contract announced in January to create 18 missile-tracking satellites for the U.S. Space Force’s next-generation missile-tracking satellite network, constructed by the Space Development Agency, is part of the company’s $1.3 billion defense backlog.

According to Daehler, more orders come from unidentified defense clients. “We currently have agreements in place with significant acquisition firms.”

Opportunities Related to “SAML”

As a spinoff from Sierra Nevada Corporation, Sierra Space was established in 2021 and has endeavored to establish a reputation as a “new space company” catering to both government and commercial clients.

The Space Force’s 2025 budget proposal includes $40 million set out for “space access, mobility and logistics” (SAML) services, which are an emerging sector that the firm is targeting.

In response to the military’s projected requirement for SAML services, Sierra Space has developed a satellite that can precisely rendezvous and operate in close proximity to other spacecraft. The company is presenting this spacecraft to the Space Force as a means of enabling in-orbit military satellite repair and replenishment.

Additionally, Sierra Space is working on a return capsule that will be able to carry supplies from space to Earth and land without incident. The company is researching how this vehicle could facilitate rapid point-to-point delivery of supplies and equipment to assist military operations or humanitarian relief activities worldwide in collaboration with the U.S. Transportation Command.

A specialized test lab was constructed in Florida by Sierra Space to design, build, and test new technologies in order to enable the development of space vehicles targeted at the defense industry. The corporate office is located in Louisville, Colorado.

Robot Maintenance

The need to automate maintenance tasks currently carried out by astronauts or cosmonauts at the International Space Station—tasks that will be replaced by robotic systems on future commercial space stations—inspired the concept for Sierra Space’s in-orbit servicing vehicle, known as Spectre, Daehler said.

The concept for the Ghost return capsule, which can carry payload from space and safely land back on Earth, originated from requests made by clients who wish to work on the future commercial space station. They wanted to be able to develop technology in space and send it back to Earth for testing and inspections, he explained. “Its capacity ranges from 250 to 700 kilograms.”

According to Daehler, the Spectre vehicle will be shown in orbit in 2025 or 2026. “We’re offering it as a service that our government customers can purchase, as well as a product that the U.S. government could own and operate.”

Sanchita Patil

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