Sierra Nevada Corp. has booked at least six launches for the United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan Centaur rocket to bring Dream Chaser supply vessels into orbit from 2021 on cargo flights to the International Space Station. This was first confirmed customer for the next generation ULA launchers.
The first of the six Dream Chaser replenishment missions to the space station is scheduled for launch in late 2021 from Cape Canaveral on the second flight of the ULA Rocket Vulcan Centaur, scheduled to launch earlier that year.
"This is a highly competitive launch market today and it is just an enormous honor to be selected by SNC to fly this mission block on our Vulcan launch vehicle and we are very thankful," said Tory Bruno. The CEO of ULA attended a press conference on Wednesday at Sierra Nevada Space Systems' headquarters in Louisville, Colorado.
Sierra Nevada had previously signed a contract with ULA over two Dre on the Chaser launches Atlas 5 missiles. These two starting reserves have been converted into volcanic missions, and another four Dream Chaser missions are now reserved for flight on the Vulcan Centaur rocket.
The long relationship between companies has been a key factor in Sierra Nevada's decision to secure additional launches "I think ULA had a significant advantage because we worked with ULA from day one," said Eren Ozmen, owner and CEO President of SNC. "Not to mention that we had a really competitive price."
"We had five different starters we worked very closely with, in Japan and Europe, and of course Elon Musk (SpaceX) and Jeff Bezos (Blue ) Origin), "said Ozmen. "They were all part of our selection criteria. They all had really good skills.
"After all, it was just our personal relationships and skills, as well as the competitive price, and (so) ULA got the contract," she said.
Track record is important, "said Fatih Ozmen, owner and CEO of SNC. "(ULA has a flawless track record on Atlas 5, and that culture is very meaningful for what may come in the future, and that was also an important factor."
Sierra Nevada and ULA did not announce any financial data on contract terms, but according to official sources, the Atlas 5 ULA missile remains available as a backup option for the launch of Dream Chaser missions if the Vulcan's development encounters delays.
"We're on time with Vulcan, but if anything comes up, we'll make sure you fly when you're ready," Bruno said at a press conference on Wednesday together with representatives of the Sierra Nevada.
The first Vulcan launch is scheduled for early 2021. However, the launch provider has not announced a contract for the first launch of the Vulcan. English: www.germnews.de/archive/gn/1996/01/14.html.
In the meantime, ULA is introducing several of the upgrades that will be phased on the Vulcan rocket. Atlas 5 rocket will be replaced. The Vulcan rocket will use the same payload fairing design and same avionics systems already in place on the Atlas 5. ULA is expected to fly a twin-engine Centaur advanced stage on the Atlas 5 rocket this year, and the company will introduce the new Northrop Grumman belt-back booster for the Atlas 5 next year to replace Aerojet Rocketdyne solid-state boosters ,
"All the important elements of Vulcan, its payload fairing, its solid rocket engines, its avionics, its software, will in the meantime have been flown on Atlas flights, so by the time we actually fly (Vulcan), everything but the the first stage of the engine – the new BE-4 – will actually have flown several times, "Bruno said.
Two Blue Origin built BE-4 engines will power every first stage of the Vulcan. The BE-4 engine burns methane and liquid oxygen and has not flown yet.
The Dream Chaser buoyant spacecraft takes off on a conventional rocket and lands on a runway such as the Space Shuttle. The reusable utility vehicle can deliver approximately 5,500 kg (12,100 pounds) of scientific experiments, hardware, and crew material to the space station on each unmanned mission.
"Dream Chaser really questions the status quo … because it's the only one private." Fatih Ozmen, owner and CEO of SNC, said the commercial spacecraft owned and operated globally is reusable.
The Dream Chaser will reach a maximum fuel quantity of about 20 tons at the start. The 9-meter spaceship – approximately a quarter of the length of a Space Shuttle orbiter – launches into the Vulcan Rocket's fascia, folding wings and solar collectors to fit into the Vulcan's cargo envelope.  In January 2016, NASA, together with the established freight carriers SpaceX and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, awarded Sierra Nevada a commercial cargo order to meet the space station's logistical requirements until 2024. Each Freight Forwarder will be guaranteed at least six replenishment orders under the Commercial Replenishment Service-2 Agreement.
SNC officials also praised their selection of the ULA rocket Vulcan for providing a different launch vehicle for NASA's space station program. SpaceX launches its Dragon Supply Vessels with the company's Falcon 9 rockets, while Northrop Grumman's Antares launcher places Cygnus Freighter in orbit.
SpaceX and Northrop Grumman's Dragon and Cygnus Supply Ships are based on capsule constructions. SpaceX's Dragon returns to Earth with parachute-assisted splashes at sea while the Cygnus spacecraft serves as a garbage disposal vehicle and dissolves into the atmosphere at the end of each mission.
Sierra Nevada's dream hunter fulfills both roles.  Originally designed for astronauts, the spacecraft will land some 1,850 kilograms of cargo back to earth using a runway landing, following a reentry profile that is gentler than the steeper return flights of capsuleers. Sierra Nevada's six CRS-2 missions returning from the space station land at NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a few miles from ULA's Vulcan Launch Pad Re-entry may also include up to 3,400 kilograms of cargo Disposal be provided. The cargo module is dropped from the Dream Chaser spacecraft before it returns to the atmosphere.
John Curry, program director of CRS-2 Dream Chaser in Sierra Nevada, said the main elements of the company's first spacecraft to fly to the space station are in the pipeline for manufacturing advances.
The primary structure of the first flyable Dream Chaser spacecraft will be delivered to the SNC plant in Louisville for final assembly. Curry said that Lockheed Martin's airframe delivery, which has built the structure at its Fort Worth aircraft factory, is expected "in about a month".
The cargo module mounted in the rear of the Dream Chaser spacecraft is nearing completion. According to Curry, this element is manufactured by Applied Composites in San Diego.
The rocket engines of the Dream Chaser are also being tested. The propulsion system of the spacecraft will consist of 26 engines capable of firing at three different thrust settings to control the attitude of the ship and adjust its orbit.
Curry said the engines on board the Dream Chaser would consume RP-1 kerosene and hydrogen peroxide, an unusual propellant, for mixing in-space rocket engines, which typically burn poisonous hydrazine fuel.
E-mail the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .