CES, or the Consumer Electronics Show, is an annual trade show held in Las Vegas that highlights the latest innovations in technology. While the Omicron wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic somewhat dampens CES 2022, including shortening it by one day, there are still many prominent exhibits. One of the featured exhibitors at CES 2022 is Sierra Space Corporation. It’s at the forefront of the next chapter in space travel. However, most people don’t know much about the mysterious Sierra Space Corporation. What is it?
Where is Sierra Space Corporation located?
Sierra Space Corporation is a subsidiary of private aerospace contractor Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). It has three major projects in development: the Dream Chaser Spaceplane, Shooting Star Service Module, and Orbital Reef space station.
The headquarters of Sierra Space Corporation is located in Louisville, Colorado. Sierra Space also has operations in Madison, Wisconsin, and Durham, North Carolina.
Sierra Space: ‘Enabling humanity to begin new civilizations beyond Earth’
Sierra Space has very lofty ambitions. Its website homepage states, “Enabling humanity to begin new civilizations beyond Earth.” The “about us” section expands on this:
“We envision a future where humanity lives and works in space, on moons, and on distant planets. People are married, children are born, families are raised, businesses are built and new civilizations thrive. Our vision isn’t restricted to the few, nor solely to governments, instead we see a future where all people can choose to live, work, explore, and vacation beyond our planet.”– Sierra Space Corporation
In advance of CES 2022, Janet Kavandi, the president of Sierra Space, gave an interview with CES 2022 host James Kotecki. He asked Kavandi how Sierra Space would “enable humanity to begin new civilizations beyond Earth.”
The former astronaut responded, “We are trying to establish a presence in low-Earth orbit (LEO) that is not government-sponsored, but commercially sponsored.” Kavandi continued, “We are planning to build a business park in space [Orbital Reef] in which people can come and work as they do at a business park on the ground. You can do manufacturing, research, or even build a hotel and visit there for fun.”
What is the Sierra Space Dream Chaser Spaceplane?
The Dream Chaser Spaceplane, which Sierra Space also calls “America’s Spaceplane,” is a reusable spacecraft that resembles a miniature NASA Space Shuttle. Sierra Space designed it to “transport crew and cargo to low-Earth orbit destinations such as the International Space Station (ISS).”
For its Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract with NASA, the Dream Chaser Spaceplane will provide at least “seven cargo missions to and from the space station.” It will carry “critical supplies like food, water, and science experiments.” Originally intended as a crewed spacecraft, the current iteration of the Dream Chaser has “pilotless launch, flight, and landing capabilities.” The first launch of the Dream Chaser will be in 2022.
What is the Sierra Space Shooting Star Service Module?
The Sierra Space Shooting Star Service Module is a 15-foot transport vehicle. Its primary use will be an attachment for the Dream Chaser Spaceplane. However, the Shooting Star provides considerable flexibility. This enables it to be used for other applications, including a free-flying spacecraft.
Initially, the primary benefit of the Shooting Star Service Module is that it provides additional payload capabilities for the Dream Chaser Spaceplane. As a result, it will more effectively help NASA resupply the International Space Station. Also, the Shooting Star “facilitates cargo disposal upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.”
What is the Sierra Space Orbital Reef space station?
The most ambitious Sierra Space project is the Orbital Reef space station. Orbital Reef is a partnership with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. It also has the backing of other space industry leaders. This includes Boeing, Genesis Engineering, Redwire Space, and Arizona State University.
Sierra Space Corporation, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Blue Origin envision the Orbital Reef space station as a “mixed-use business park in space.” Orbital Reef will offer customers transportation via the Dream Chaser Spaceplane, as well as space habitation, logistics, equipment accommodations, and an onboard crew.
Additionally, Orbital Reef will have a Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) habitat and small-diameter node modules. The targeted operation start date of the Orbital Reef space station is the second half of this decade.
While Sierra Space and Sierra Nevada are relatively unknown relative to other private space companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, that will likely soon change. As a featured exhibitor at CES 2022, the media attention on Sierra Space and Sierra Nevada will significantly increase. Furthermore, the attention toward Sierra Space and Sierra Nevada will be even greater once the Dream Chaser Spaceplane starts making flights to the International Space Station.