NEWTOWN, Conn. --- Sierra Nevada Corp scored a major victory when NASA awarded it one of three contracts to carry supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). With the CRS-2 win, Sierra Nevada Corp will now receive a large amount of cash flow that will be a boon to the Dream Chaser program.
It will also give the company a launch customer, enabling it to begin production. With human spaceflight attracting increased attention in the commercial market, SNC will have an advantage by having a space transport vehicle already in production.
There are many competitors in the human spaceflight market, including Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and others. The companies that have vehicles that are already in production and operation along with paying customers generating cash flow will have a distinct advantage in this field.
For example, XCOR Aerospace, which does not have a contract with any government, now is changing focus and laying off staff. Sierra Nevada Corp now joins the likes of SpaceX, Orbital ATK, and Boeing with a large customer in NASA. SNC has also had success developing relationships outside the U.S., and now has a contract with the UN to show for it.
The exact production plan remains in question. SNC has designed the Dream Chaser to be reusable. However, it is possible that early versions will not be used after their first launch. It is likely that SNC will follow a similar path to SpaceX, which can reuse the Dragon capsule but has not yet done so under a CRS contract.
For that reason, under contract between 2019 and 2024, Forecast International expects one Dream Chaser to be produced for each of six missions. Another will be reproduced for the UN. After that point, Dream Chasers will likely be reused for commercial or other missions. Production rates will decline to replace attrition at that point.