Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is a Sparks, Nevada-based aerospace and defense contractor, and a Tier 1 supplier for the United States Air Force. They design, manufacture, and enhance spacecraft, aircraft, ground vehicles, electronics, hardware and software systems, and provide related services. They have contracts with the United States Armed Forces, NASA, the United States Air Force, and private spaceflight and defense companies. SNC divides their activities into three larger corporate divisions: National Security & Defense, Space Systems, and Commercial Solutions.
Through their national security and defense contracts, Sierra Nevada Corporation has worked on integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems (C4ISR) for supported aircraft, and electronic intelligence systems for other integrations.
SNC has also worked on aircraft design, modification, and support. These efforts have included systems design and modification for existing aircraft and increased aircraft capabilities. They have worked on rotary-wing integration for customizable helicopters. Navigation, guidance and landing systems work through their aircraft design systems have included vertical take-off and landing for unmanned systems and vehicles. They have also developed and provided sensor and guidance systems for manned and unmanned flight vehicles. And they have worked on developing degraded visual environment solution for pilots situational awareness and for increased flight safety.
Part of SNC's electronics systems development, they have developed electronic warfare systems capable of defensive, offensive and support operations. These have included counter-radio-controlled improvised explosive device electronic warfare systems. They have developed systems to protect ground troops from unmanned aerial systems through counter electronic systems designed to defect and defeat unauthorized systems based on geographic location. SNC has worked on supplying and manufacturing communication systems and secure communication systems. They have worked also on remote health monitoring systems.
SNC has also developed cybersecurity systems for national security and defense applications. This includes their Binary Armor network guard which provides endpoint cybersecurity for supervisory control and data acquisition network systems. This system is designed for in-line installation between PLCs, remote terminal unites, intelligent electronic devices or controllers, and the WAN/LAN to provide bi-directional security across communication layers. SCA has also developed a cybersecurity correlation automation to centralize and correlate all data to improve the detection and triage of threats.
Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser is their spaceplane, which is intended to be a multi-mission space utility vehicle designed to transport crew and cargo to low-Earth orbit destinations, including the International Space Station. NASA chose the Dream Chaser to provide cargo delivery, return and disposal services for the space station under the Commercial Resupply Service 2 (CRS-2) contract. The Dream Chaser is designed for reusability, to reduce overall cost and provide quick turnarounds between missions. It is capable of being flown crewed and uncrewed.
Dream Chaser is able to be flown uncrewed to increase the cargo space available. With assistance from SNC's Shooting Star transfer vehicle, the Dream Chaser can deliver up to 5,500 kg of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the space station. This includes food, water, supplies, and science experiments and is capable of returning to Earth with a gentle runway landing.
SNC's Shooting Star is a flexible 15-foot transport vehicle used as an attachment to the Dream Chaser spaceplane that can also be used as a free-flying spacecraft. When attached to Dream Chaser, the Shooting Star is accessed via the aft hatch. And when docked at the International Space Station, the Shooting Star provides a normal cabin environment for astronauts to work and for cargo to be stored.
When used for disposal services for NASA, the Shooting Star module is separated from the Dream Chaser and burns up in the Earth's atmosphere.
SNC designs and manufactures a variety of satellite solutions and products for customer needs. These can include communication, imaging, science, and technology demonstration need types that offer specific architecture and engineering capabilities, specific production capabilities, hosted payloads and rideshare capabilities, and disaggregation capabilities.
Under NASA's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) program, Sierra Nevada Corporation has developed ideas for lunar exploration and deep space exploration, including Mars. These have included systems for the Gateway Logistics Services and Commercial Lunar Payload services programs. Their goal for the habitation module includes support for crewed missions in 2024 to deliver experiments, supplies, and equipment to the moon.
For their habitat prototype, LIFE, SNC has developed a habitat system to support a crew of four. This habitat includes their Astro Garden system offering environmental control and life support systems. They developed a trash compacting and processing system prototype for the habitat module to reduce trash volume.
Through their rocket engine and propulsion systems development, SNC has designed, manufactured, and tested multiple thrust chamber assemblies in the 1 lbf to 35,000 lbf thrust class with a variety of propellant combinations such as peroxide/RP1, LOX/kerosene, LOX/propane, LOX/hydrogen, and N2O/propane. Through these efforts, SNC developed their Vortex thrust chamber assembly, which confines propellant mixing and burning to the core region of a coaxial vortex flow field. And SNC suggests their coaxial vortex flow field is also applicable to hybrid rocket engine systems to produce fuel regression rates higher than conventional hybrid configurations.
SNC's activities in propellants and combustion have included the synthesis of non-toxic propellants, the study of gelled propellant combustion and the development of new diagnostics for combustion and two-phase flows.
As part of SNC's Astro Garden system, they have worked on bio-agricultural products for microgravity environments to increase plant productivity in space. They have worked to optimize their systems for growth of plant-based pharmaceuticals, industrial products, and high-yield crops through lighting, control systems, and automation and growth services. These bio-agricultural systems rely on their LED lighting systems which offer low-energy consumption and lower degradation over time compared to other agricultural lighting systems.
These bio-agricultural systems also include temperature and humidity control, atmospheric composition control, nutrient delivery and waste processing, biomass collection and separation and energy monitoring and control. And they have worked to achieve these systems through automated processes to reduce the necessary time astronauts need to dedicate to the upkeep of these systems.
The developments in their environmental systems led to their 2015 vegetable production system (VEGGIE) which enabled astronauts to eat grown-in-space produce. Their VEGGIE units in the International Space Station offer lettuce, Chinese cabbage, and mizuna grown for consumption and Zinnia grown as an ornamental plant. There are two VEGGIE units on the International Space Station.
Their bio-agricultural and micro-gravity growing environments are part of SNC's work in life-sustaining systems, technologies, subsystems, and components for closed human environments and longer-term space travel. These includes complete systems for air and water processing, environment and thermal management, waste management, cabin instrumentation, and science or payload systems.
Sierra Nevada Corporations commercial solutions combine a selection of their space industry and defense industry solutions made available to commercial clients. The available solutions and services include:
- Dream Chaser
- Aircraft design, modification, and support
- Navigation, guidance and landing systems
- Satellite solutions
- eHealth and remote monitoring solutions
- Rocket engines and propulsion
- Space technologies and subsystems solutions
- Environmental systems
- Radio and communication systems
- Enhanced flight vision systems
SNC's commercial specific solutions include their human language technologies. These include language identification algorithms with graphic interfaces to offer language analysis in interpretation environments. Their Human Language Translation (HLT) suite can monitor multiple live audio feeds, identify the language spoken, and provide automatic alerts for keywords across languages.
SNC also offers their Decision Space, a decision solution software offering organizations access to multiple information sources and integrated technologies. The software works to offer users system intoperability, data integration, and financial scalability for big data analytics. And SNC says the software can be customized for threat intelligence, operations, and command and control use cases.
Part of their commercial solutions, Sierra Nevada Corporation offers engineering and aircraft certification capabilities through their subsidiary 3S Engineering, which is designated by the FAA as a supplemental type certificate organization designation authorization (STC-ODA). Through this designation, 3S is allowed to act on behalf of the FAA to approve and issue STCs covering modifications to fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.
Sierra Nevada Corporation was founded in 1963 by John Chisholm. At the time, SNC worked out of an airplane hanger at the Reno Stead Airport and employed around 20 people. In 1994, Fatih Oxmen and his wife Eren Ozmen acquired Sierra Nevada Corporation. Fatih Ozmen was originally an employee of SNC, hired in 1981. The Ozmen's grew Sierra Nevada Corporation from the small company to a company with over 4,000 employees and contracts with the United States Department of Defense and NASA. These have included SNC's involvement in over 400 space missions for resupply for the International Space Station.
As part of their growth, SNC build a 130,000 square feet aircraft modification facility in Meridianville, Alabama. And again they built an additional 60,800 square feet facility to hold seven of the Beechcraft Super King Air/C-12/MC-12S planes.
As part of their post-1994 growth, Sierra Nevada Corporation acquired:
- Advanced Countermeasure Systems of Sacramento; acquired in April 1998
- Spectral Systems, Inc; acquired in February 1999
- Plano Microwave, Inc; acquired in October 2001
- Turtle Mountain Communications, Inc; acquired in June 2003
- Inter-4; acquired in October 2003
- WaveBand Corporation; acquired in May 2004
- Aviation Resources Delaware, Inc; acquired in June 2004
- Straight Flight, Inc and Straight Flight Conversions, Inc; acquired in January 2007
- MicroSat Systems, Inc; acquired in January 2008
- SpaceDev, Inc; acquired in December 2008
- 3S Engineering, LLC (wholly-owned subsidiary); acquired in September 2012
- Orbital Technologies Corporation; acquired in July 2014
- 328 Support Services GmbH; acquired in February 2015 (enabled global expansion of SNC's commercial aircraft technologies)
- Kutta Technologies Inc and Kutta Radios Inc; acquired in April 2015
Check out Sierra Nevada Corp's luxury space habitat prototype reveal
August 27, 2019
Inside Sierra Nevada Corp's space plans, from the reusable 'Dream Chaser' to inflatable habitats
October 11, 2020
Why Sierra Nevada's owners are betting big on Dream Chaser - SpaceNews
April 16, 2018