Louisville-based Sierra Nevada Corporation announced today that Lockheed Martin has agreed to build the composite structure for a next-generation space shuttle, the Dream Chaser, which is scheduled to make its first orbital test flight in 2016.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., which is based in Littleton, will construct the composite at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
Sierra Nevada Corp.'s commercial project is one of three working with NASA to send astronauts to the International Space Station. The other two are Houston-based Boeing Company, which is developing the CST-100 spacecraft to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which is building a Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket for crewed missions.
Like the CST-100, the Dream Chaser is also set to launch on an Atlas V.
By bringing Lockheed Martin aboard, Sierra Nevada's management team said it will be able to tap into Lockheed Martin's experience developing the Orion deep space capsule and its many facilities and experts across the nation.
Sierra Nevada Corp. is working under contract with NASA's Commercial Crew Program to keep the project within the agency's flight safety and performance standards and requirements. NASA retired its own shuttle program last year. Commercial space exploration has become the new frontier. Unlike its competitors, Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser would land on a runway. The competing crafts are capsules.
NASA has awarded Sierra Nevada Corp. hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the Dream Chaser.
Lockheed's involvement was announced this morning at Sierra Nevada Corp.'s headquarters in the Colorado Technology Center.