Sierra Nevada Corp. Space Systems Buys Technology Supplier for Dream Chaser Spaceship

Image Sierra Nevada Corp. Space Systems bought a company that makes spaceship engine and life-support systems used in the Dream Chaser space plane it’s creating to ferry NASA and private sector astronauts into orbit. The Louisville company reached agreement to make Orbital Technologies Corp., of Madison, Wisconsin, a wholly-owned subsidiary, the companies announced Thursday. Terms were not disclosed. Sierra Nevada Corp. Space Systems is a division of Sparks, Nevada-based Sierra Nevada Corp., a privately-held defense and aerospace company.

Buying Orbital Technologies, or Orbitech, will bring in-house the company’s liquid rocket propulsion, life science and support and fire suppression technologies, which add to Sierra Nevada Space Systems’ existing propulsion and spacecraft systems products.

SNC Space Systems employs about 400 people in Colorado and 200 more in Poway and Durham, N.C. (Another 500 Sierra Nevada Corp. employees work in aviation-related sites it has by Centennial Airport.)

SNC Space Systems and Orbitech have collaborated for three years on life-support and environmental control systems for the Dream Chaser. SNC recently chose Orbitech as its supplier of reaction control engines for Dream Chaser.

“SNC has a relationship with Orbitech that has proven to be extremely collaborative with our endeavors under the NASA Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract agreement and on the Dream Chaser program,” said SNC President Eren Ozmen. “Their team’s commitment to the safety and quality of human life in space to reliably expand mankind’s exploration of space is in perfect alignment with SNC’s Space Systems mission and our quest to return human space travel to America.”

The technologies will be integrated into the Louisville site where SNC develops the Dream Chaser spaceship. Dream Chaser resembles a smaller, more nimble updated space shuttle, but its being built to be capable of flying without astronauts and completely controlled by onboard computers.

It’s one of three space ships NASA is helping fund through its commercial crew program meant to spur development of new ways to transport astronauts to the International Space Station and other low-earth orbits following the 2011 retirement of the space shuttle fleet. The Boeing Co., based in Chicago, and Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, California are making space capsules for the program.

Orbitech's engines use nontoxic propellants, and the technology that Orbitech uses can be scaled to larger size for upper-stage and, possibly, booster engines for rockets, SNC said.

Orbitech also made systems flown to the space station in May that are designed to help grow edible plants in space, which were instrumental in generating breathable air and recyclable water supplies for long-term human habitation in space.

Merging with SNC brings together companies whose cultures are compatible with quickly and efficiently creating new space technologies, and SNC will help commercialize Orbitech’s products more quickly, said Tom Crabb, president of Orbitech.

Crabb will continue to lead Orbitech’s operations in Madison, which SNC said it plans to expand.

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Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07