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Sierra Nevada will build space stations and a manned version of Dream Chaser

Sierra Nevada's proposed LIFE space station
Artist conception of Sierra Nevada’s LIFE space station

Capitalism in space: Sierra Nevada announced today that it will not only build a manned version of its Dream Chaser reusable mini-shuttle, it now intends to use that shuttle as a ferry to its own space station, made up of inflatable modules.

They have dubbed their proposed station LIFE, and describe as follows:

The LIFE habitat is a three story, 27-foot large inflatable fabric environment that launches on a conventional rocket and inflates on-orbit. The LIFE habitat is undergoing a NASA soft-goods certification this year and the full size ground prototype developed under NASA’s NextSTEP-2 contract is in the process of being transferred from Johnson Space Center in Texas to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for further testing on short-and long-term habitation. SNC’s Astro Garden® system also provides fresh food within the habitat.

Making a manned version of Dream Chaser was always expected. Adding the company’s own station makes complete sense. Except for the rocket to launch a Dream Chaser spacecraft, Sierra Nevada will be able to provide a full service experience to, in, and from space.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • V-Man

    Does the Dream Chaser fit on a Falcon 9? Or in a Starship payload bay? (And would SpaceX sell them rides to orbit?)

    Say… A Dream Chaser is around 8-9 tons, no? Pretty close to the projected lift capacity of the Neutron rocket…

  • eddie willers

    Well now that’s a weird company.

  • Scott M.

    V-Man, with regards to a Falcon 9 my guess is Dream Chaser would be a no-go. It won’t fit inside the F9 fairing (17 feet in diameter vs. the Dream Chaser’s 23 foot wingspan). Trying to mount it without a fairing would create a lot of new aerodynamic issues that would have to be addressed.

    It would definitely fit inside the Starship payload bay.

    The Neutron rocket is an interesting idea, but again they’d have to determine what effects you’d get by using a lifting-body shape in place of the standard fairing.

  • Scott M.

    Speaking of capitalism in space, I have a question for Bob.

    Would you ever consider applying for a slot on the Dear Moon program? It appears that two YouTubers who I like quite a bit (Tim Dodd and Scott Manley) are going to apply as reporters.

  • Joe

    Scott M. – I had applied for dearMoon and the email to for part two never arrived. When contacted, it was dismissed as an error and well, too bad.

    Not that I am sore or anything. The odds of getting selected will be millions to one. Powerball might actually have better odds.

  • Scott M: I have considered applying for these kinds of things, but I have to admit that at my age, 68, I have doubts I would qualify, even though I still do some pretty intense outdoor activities caving.

    Right now I think my skills are better served at home, at the keyboard.

  • Richard M

    To clarify Dream Chaser’s present cargo configuration:

    “The Dream Chaser will will max out at approximately 20 tons when fully fueled at launch. The 30-foot-long (9-meter) spacecraft — about a quarter the length of a space shuttle orbiter — will launch inside the Vulcan rocket’s nose fairing, with wings and solar panels folded up to fit inside the Vulcan payload envelope.”

    So just to consider mass allowance, Dream Chaser could not launch on a Falcon 9 reusable, regardless of payload volume (though it could so so on a Falcon Heavy, or a Falcon 9 expendable). Now, that raises the question of whether the Shooting Star module would be retained on a crewed version – the Shooting Star adds a lot of mass. I am unclear whether Shooting Star would be retained now for a crewed version. (In the SN press conference yesterday, the model they had of the station had Dream Chasers with Shooting Stars docked to it, but I could not make ou whether they wre crew or cargo versions.)

    As for volume, Dreaam Chaser in cargo format will fold its wings to fit inside the Vulcan payload fairings, as the article notes. The Falcon 9 fairing is too small, as I work it out, but the enlarged fairing being developed for DoD launches should be large enough to accommodate it.

  • Doug Booker

    This company must have great lobbyists. For NASA anyway they are involved in contracts worth billions yet I don’t think anything has flown successfully including its atmospheric test vehicle.

  • Jeff Wright

    Pitch loads and bending moments didn’t keep Boeing from proposing the OSP atop Delta IV “Heavy.”When seen from directly above, the LV stack would look like a plus sign-the winglets to east-west…the strap-ons north south. Falcon Heavy could probably handle an HL-42…but I’d want a solid upper/escape stage. This Dream Chaser could carry its own fuel otherwise-Falcon looks more rugged than Delta.

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