Applied Composites Delivers Shooting Star Transport Vehicle to SNC for Dream Chaser® Spaceplane

San Diego, CA – Applied Composites (AC), a leading aerospace and defense composites supplier, announces the delivery of the Shooting Star transport vehicle to Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Louisville, Colorado production facility. Its delivery marks the culmination of a three-year manufacturing development program to produce the lightweight composite structure which will transport cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). This key hardware allows the Dream Chaser spaceplane to physically berth to the International Space Station.

Shooting Star is a 16 foot tall attachment to Dream Chaser that has the capability to carry more than 10,000 pounds of additional payloads to the International Space Station and represents the first habitable composite pressure vessel ever test verified for visiting the International Space Station. Completion of the test campaign certifies Shooting Star’s readiness for its first mission to the space station.

“This hardware is unique in that it provides structural strength and pressure capabilities, while maintaining precision interfaces,” said AC program manager and CTO, Robert Kolozs. “I’m very proud of our diverse team’s ability to come together during the difficult COVID-19 crisis to persevere and safely deliver this essential piece of hardware to our country’s space program.”

Primarily built from advanced composite materials, Shooting Star has a high strength-to-weight ratio, ultimately allowing it to carry more payloads to the space station. The structure was manufactured in Applied Composites’ San Diego facility where the main sandwich panel cone assembly was laid up and cured and then attached to the monolithic dome structure in a precision assembly fixture produced by Applied Composites’ Lake Forest division. The structure was then load tested in the San Diego facility, which culminated in a 4,000 gallon water pressure test to ensure the integrity of the structure in space.

“The entire Applied Composites team worked together to build and deliver one of the most complex assemblies we have ever built,” said AC CEO David Horner. “I could not be prouder of the critical role we’ve played. We look forward to continued support of the Dream Chaser program for SNC as a critical element of our Space Structures business area.” This is a landmark delivery for Applied Composites that supports the next generation of space exploration and space cargo delivery to the ISS.

Shooting Star will now undergo a series of integrations at SNC’s facility before being delivered to NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Cleveland, Ohio for testing to ensure it can withstand both launch and space environments.

Dream Chaser is under contract with NASA for at least six cargo resupply and return service missions to the International Space Station under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. The Dream Chaser and attached Shooting Star transport vehicle can carry up to 12,000 pounds of supplies and other cargo, and returns delicate science to Earth with a gentle runway landing. Shooting Star also allows disposal services for the space station, and after separating from Dream Chaser, disintegrates upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

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