‘Space Ghost’ Will Enable 90-Minute Deliveries Anywhere on Earth

Staff
By Staff
4 Min Read

Sierra Space, a commercial space-tech company, has successfully beta tested a new logistics spacecraft, Sierra Space Ghost.

The Sierra Space Ghost Beta decelerator, part of the company’s recently announced Sierra Space Axelerator incubator, is a thermal protection system tailored for the safe return of small payloads from space.

Last month, the first drop test of the Sierra Space Ghost was completed in Florida, enabling Sierra Space test engineers to fully understand the flight characteristics of the system and how recovery operations can be rapidly completed on the ground.

The ability to deliver critical supplies within 90 minutes to any location on Earth is a technology that could potentially turn the tide of a conflict. With this new technology, the warfighter on the ground could order pre-staged supplies that are waiting in an on-orbit inventory, or positioned with rapid launch capability, and deploy them down to Earth within 100 yards of where they are needed.

Sierra Space performed a series of three drop tests on February 1 at Space Florida’s storied Launch and Landing Facility (LLF) in Florida, one of the longest runways in the world and where most of NASA’s space shuttle orbiters ended their missions. With the support of the Florida-based company Operator Solutions, three test articles were dropped from a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter to ensure stable flight for the hardware at subsonic speeds. Sierra Space will scale-up to hypersonic in upcoming tests.

The entire testing campaign came together in 90 days as part of Sierra Space’s Axelerator incubator charter. Key highlights included:

  • Terminal drop (no parachute) of the first test article from an altitude of 2,000 feet, assessing impact dynamics and payload integrity
  • Deployment of a parachute-equipped test article from 4,000 feet, demonstrating controlled descent and precise landing proximity
  • Separation of shield and payload components in the third test article, showcasing advanced payload return capabilities

The Axelerator incubator is part of Sierra Space’s Orbital Missions and Services organization, founded in 2023 to focus on innovative national security solutions. Sierra Space has since been awarded $1.3 billion in prime satellite constellations contracts.

The Sierra Space Ghost will now continue through a robust beta testing program, developing operations in real time. Beta testing allows the Sierra Space test team to consider the infrastructure and architecture needed to operate the spacecraft, as well as the communications system, the data system and the recording of every facet of operations.

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Additional background on Sierra Space Ghost:

  • On-orbit time of five years, vehicles are outfitted with pre-determined supplies (a survival kit, inflatable boat, rations, weaponry, etc.) pre-staged on orbit
  • On call-up, the system re-orients and begins re-entry/targeting cycle; the de-orbit motor slows the vehicle to 7,000 meters per second
  • Gravity then captures the vehicle and it begins to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere with the thermal protection shield withstanding temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Once through atmosphere, the shield is then discarded leaving just the requested payload and a parafoil
  • At the right altitude, the parafoil is released and it steers the payload to the required area within 100 meters

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