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Mon, Jun 20, 2022

Sierra Space to Open Astronaut Training Center

Three Flavors of Spacefarer On Tap

Sierra Space—the American, privately held aerospace and national security contractor specializing in aircraft modification and integration, space components and systems—is creating an astronaut training program comprising a commercial human spaceflight training center and astronaut training academy at its offices at the Kennedy Space Center.

The program, which will be headed-up by former NASA astronaut and Sierra Space president Janet Kavandi (pictured), will recruit, train and prepare an astronaut corps requisite the commercialization of space.

The center will train three categories of astronauts: Professionals—analogous to NASA astronauts—who will operate the Orbital Reef commercial space station currently being developed by Sierra Space in cooperation with Blue Origin; Specialists, who will will be trained to perform research and other work on the aforementioned station; and Experimental Astronauts akin to space tourists.

Sierra Space is currently establishing a medical advisory board to support the selection of candidates for astronaut training. Individuals meeting the stringent physical, psychological, and academic requirements will commence formal training in early 2024.

In addition to its work on the Orbital Reef space station, Sierra Space is developing a crewed version of its Dream Chaser space plane, an autonomous vehicle under NASA contract to perform cargo resupply and return missions to the International Space Station. The craft—which can carry up to 12,000 pounds per mission—will make its first flight from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in 2023.

The crewed Dream Chaser variant currently in development is expected to be operational in 2026.

Kavandi states, “We are excited to start this effort at the Kennedy Space Center during this truly formative stage in the new space economy.”

Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice adds, “The commercialization of space, starting with low Earth orbit, will require an innovative new approach to the selection, training and preparation of the large numbers of women and men that we will need to live and work in space,”

In November 2021, Sierra Space secured $1.4 billion in capital—the year’s largest Series-A capital raise and the industry’s second-ever largest private capital raise. The Series-A investment was led by General Atlantic, Coatue and Moore Strategic Ventures, with participation from funds and accounts managed by BlackRock Private Equity Partners and AE Industrial Partners. The funding supports development of Sierra Space’s orbital facilities, space transportation systems, and space-applicable technologies.



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