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Sierra Space Completes First Dream Chaser, Lays Off 165 Employees

Just days after announcing the completion of Tenacity, Sierra Space confirmed on November 17th that it had laid off 165 employees who had been instrumental in assembling the Tenacity.

  • Sierra Space Complete First Dream Chaser Vehicle Named Tenacity
  • Tenacity Is Headed To NASA Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio For Environmental Testing
  • Sierra Space Hopes To Complete Testing and Ship To Cape Canaveral Before End Of Year
  • Sierra Space Targeting NET March 2024 For Launch
Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Wed Nov 22 2023Written by Zac Aubert

Sierra Space has marked a significant milestone in their companies history, with the completion of the first Dream Chaser vehicle, named Tenacity on November 2nd at their facility in Louisville, Colorado.

The spacecraft, designed to serve as a cargo transportation vehicle for the International Space Station (ISS), is now set to undergo environmental testing at NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio. Should Tenacity pass testing Sierra Space aims to launch the vehicle on a demo mission to the ISS no earlier than Spring 2024

Just days after announcing the completion of Tenacity, Sierra Space confirmed on November 17th that it had laid off 165 employees who had been instrumental in assembling the Tenacity. The company cited a workforce realignment initiative aimed at redirecting efforts towards other projects.

Sierra Space underwent a "surge hiring" over the past six to eight months to expedite the completion of Tenacity, including bringing certain work in-house. With this phase of development complete, the company is now turning its focus towards preparing for the spacecraft's inaugural mission in spring 2024.

A spokesperson for Sierra Space stated that the company also released some contractors who had supported the assembly of Dream Chaser, without specifying the number of affected individuals.

Dream Chaser, has been in development for over a decade. The spacecraft will be launched atop United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral and is designed to return to Space Florida’s Launch and Landing Facility runway at the Kennedy Space Center.

Once at NASA's Armstrong facility, Dream Chaser will undergo environmental testing at utilizing the thermal vacuum chamber. Ken Shields, the Senior Director of Business Development at Sierra Space, anticipates the completion of these tests and the subsequent shipment of Dream Chaser to Cape Canaveral by the end of the year.

Dream Chaser, born out of a Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract award in 2016, has a minimum of seven missions to the ISS. Sierra Space is also planning a crewed version, rekindling a concept it previously worked on for NASA’s commercial crew program in 2014.

Additionally, the company is considering the development of a separate version of the vehicle for undisclosed national security applications.

Dream Chaser is a cornerstone of Sierra Space’s contributions to the Orbital Reef commercial space station concept, developed in collaboration with Blue Origin and other partners.

Despite reports of tensions and resource shifts, executives from both companies affirm their commitment to the project, emphasizing its complementary nature, combining Blue Origin's heavy-lift vehicle, New Glenn, with Sierra Space's transportation system for crew and cargo.

While Sierra Space has not disclosed a specific launch date, during the American Astronautical Society’s von Braun Space Exploration Symposium on October 27th, Shield did mention that the first mission is tentatively scheduled for "some time in March." The actual launch date will hinge on the readiness of both Dream Chaser and the Vulcan launch vehicle.