US Military to Launch Its Own Experimental Mini Space Station

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), a US-based privately held aerospace and defense contractor, has announced that it was selected by the Pentagon to build a future autonomous space station. The Pentagon is the headquarters building of the United States Department of Defense, and often referred as a symbol of the U.S. military.

The contract from Pentagon to SNC is to repurpose SNC's Shooting Star transport vehicle as a proposed commercial solution for an Orbital Outpost by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), which is a U.S. government entity that provides non-equity based capital to companies to solve the United States' defense problems.

SNC's Shooting Star is a flexible 15-foot transport vehicle that will be used as an attachment to the Dream Chaser® spaceplane, but also has other applications such as a free-flying spacecraft.

Originally developed for NASA resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS), the Shooting Star space transport vehicle can hold up to 10,000 pounds of supplies, cargo and experiments for the International Space Station. The module is versatile and may be customized for special mission needs. Upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, it also performs disposal of cargo from the ISS.

Artistic Impression of Shooting Star Space Transport Vehicle 

SNC will now modify its Shooting Star space transport vehicle design as an Unmanned Orbital Outpost. The company has been developing Shooting Star since at least 2016 for NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program, which is a series of flights awarded by NASA for the delivery of cargo and supplies to the ISS on commercially operated spacecraft.

The proposed orbital outpost will be initially established in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) with guidance, navigation and control for sustained free-flight operations to host payloads and support space assembly, microgravity, experimentation, logistics, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation. Future outposts may be based in a variety of orbits including, medium-Earth orbit, highly elliptical orbit, geosynchronous Earth orbits (GEO) to include GEO transfer orbits, and cislunar orbits.

The aerospace company, SNC, is recognized among The Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Space, as a Tier One Superior Supplier for the U.S. Air Force and is the only aerospace and defense firm selected as a 2020 US Best Managed Company. 

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