Space Technologies & Subsystems

Sierra Space is an industry leader in precision space mechanisms and complex spacecraft subsystems. Our engineers are experts in precision motion control, low-shock separation and passive thermal control technologies. Customers leverage our extensive flight heritage, engineering capabilities and broad portfolio of qualified products to create programs that are low risk.

Our large manufacturing and state-of-the-art testing facilities allow us to deliver products on time and with confidence. Some of our verification capabilities include: vibration, thermal-vacuum, large area pulsed solar simulation, shock, radio frequency (RF), stiffness, motor/actuator speed-torque-accuracy, line-of-sight micro-motion jitter testing and functional testing.

Docking & Berthing Systems

We solidified our docking and berthing technology by providing the system that captured and docked two spacecraft together on-orbit for the Orbital Express program. Our technology allowed for remote servicing such as refueling and replacement of outdated and expended components. We have now leveraged that mechanical systems experience, becoming the go-to supplier for the industry standard Passive Common Berthing Mechanism (PCBM), required for spacecraft such as the Orbital Cygnus Advanced Maneuvering Vehicle and the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to berth with the International Space Station (Space Station).

  • Passive Common Berthing Mechanisms

Spacecraft Deployable Systems

While many spacecraft are decreasing in size, physics will maintain the demand for large aperture subsystems. For that reason, we consider deployable structures to be a critical element in the future of microsatellite systems. Our Jackscrew boom system utilizes high-strength, high-stiffness articulated truss elements that ensure low-risk linear deployment. The structure and deployment system are readily integrated into mass and volume efficient super structures for planar arrays. Meanwhile, our K-Truss booms are engineered with a strain-energy deployment system that reduces cost and is constructed with a non-conductive material that enables antenna integration.

  • Jackscrew Deployed Boom
  • K-truss Boom

Electrical Power Systems

We provide low-cost, highly-scalable power systems with power ranges from 10 Watts to 10 kilowatts. End-to-end electric power solutions consist of fully-assembled and tested solar arrays, solar array drives, slip rings, hinges, hold-down mechanisms, power electronics, batteries and motor control electronics. Using state-of-the art tools and integration equipment, our engineering teams have the expertise and experience to define, analyze and test complete power systems. We have custom EPS designs ranging from 28 to 125 Volts, with power from 750 to 3000 Watts. Our scalable power systems can be tailored to fit a wide variety of mission options with reduced cost and risk by incorporating existing qualified and flight-proven designs.

  • C14-750 W Solar Array Drive Assembly (SADA)
  • Cell Shorting Device (CSD) Battery Switch
  • Cubesat Solar Array
  • Microsat Articulated Solar Array
  • Microsat Rigid Panel Solar Array
  • Smallsat Solar Array System
  • T25 Incremental Rotary Actuator

Flight Control Systems & Thrust Vector Control Systems

Flight Control Systems (FCS) and Thrust Vector Control (TVC) Systems leverage our extensive experience in space-qualified actuator and electronics design. The Dream Chaser® spaceplane’s electro-mechanical TVC and Flight Control Systems were designed in-house to very demanding requirements leveraging spaceflight-proven hardware and engineering methods. Our TVC Systems are designed to meet complete vehicle control requirements with highly scalable actuators and electronics thus minimizing cost and schedule. In addition to entire TVC systems, our TVC actuators can be used as a cost-effective and reliable replacement for existing TVC system actuators.

  • Flight Control and Thrust Vector Control Systems

Launch Adapters & Separation Systems

We have supported both U.S. and international launch services for decades with a variety of technologies needed for reliable and gentle payload and spacecraft deployment into proper orbit. Devices such as the low-shock Clamp Band Opening Devices (CBODs) are now used to release dozens of primary payloads each year on nearly every major launch vehicle. Other products such as our Fast Acting Shock-less Separation Nuts (FASSNs) have become the go-to method for safely restraining and releasing the cargo pallet on H2 Transfer Vehicles to assist in delivering critical equipment and supplies to the International Space Station. We also offer larger structural systems such as our own Dream Chaser® spaceplane Launch Vehicle Integration System as well as dispensers, adapters and integration services required for carrying both single and multiple spacecraft onward to their mission in space.

  • Fast-Acting Shockless Separation Nut (FASSN) 30K
  • Hold Down Release Mechanism (HDRM)
  • Low-Shock Release Mechanism (LSRM) 5K
  • PP-5501 Two-Position Latching Actuator
  • Microsat Rigid Panel Solar Array
  • QwkSep® 15 Low-Profile Separation System
  • QwkSep® 24 Low-Profile Separation System

Mechanical & Structural Systems

Since 1987, our space technologies group has flown thousands of mechanisms on hundreds of space missions. One of our very first products, the High-Output Paraffin Actuator (HOPA) has become an industry standard for the gentle, low-shock release of critical spacecraft applications such as solar arrays, antennas and payloads. Over the years, we have been able to leverage technologies such as the HOPA into larger subsystem offerings such as custom Instrument Covers and Optical Barrel Assemblies.

  • EH-3525 HOP Actuator
  • IH-5055/-10055 High Output Paraffin (HOP) Actuators
  • PP-35055 Resettable High-Force Pin Puller

Pointing & Motion Control Systems

We are an industry leader in precision, low-disturbance pointing systems for space applications.

Sierra Space develops a number of single- and dual-axis pointing systems for spaceflight tracking, navigation and positioning functions for antennae, solar array drives/mechanisms, optical telescopes and instrument mechanisms.

Our pointing systems are qualified and flight-proven with NASA programs, commercial and military satellites and the ISS. Although we specialize in custom-engineered, open- and closed-loop solutions, our list of qualified motors, actuators, gimbals and drive electronics has grown into a substantial portfolio capable of supporting a wide range of applications and sizes with minimal non-recurring effort required.

  • C14 Bi-Axis Gimbal
  • C14 Incremental Rotary Actuator
  • C14-750 W Solar Array Drive Assembly
  • C20 Incremental Rotary Actuator
  • C50 Incremental Rotary Actuator
  • Electronic Control Unit (ECU)
  • EH25 Bi-Axis Gimbal, 3-Phase
  • EH25 Incremental Rotary Actuator, 3-Phase
  • eMotor
  • H25 Bi-axis Gimbal, 4 phase
  • LDC20 Low-Disturbance Gimbal
  • Lightweight 2-axis Mini Gimbal
  • Rotary Drive Electronics
  • Size 23 Incremental Rotary Actuator
  • T25 Incremental Rotary Actuator
  • Universal Microstepping Control Driver

Thermal Control Systems

We have extensive experience in the area of spacecraft thermal control. Currently, our portfolio includes thermal louvers that draw from decades of NASA/JPL heritage and are currently supporting a number of interplanetary spacecraft; and heat switches, which for years reliably controlled the main battery temperature on the Mars exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Both technologies are considered passive approaches in that they require no externally supplied power to operate, allowing valuable spacecraft power to be reserved for other needs.

  • Miniature Satellite Energy-Regulating Radiator (MiSER)
  • Passive Thermal Control Heat Switch
  • Passive Thermal Louvers
  • Thin Plate Heat Switch

Surface Mount Technology (SMT)

Sierra Space's Surface Mount Technology (SMT) solar array is a game-changing technique that increases power density, reduces lead-time and lowers system costs.

By utilizing a surface mount capable cell, industry standard pick-and-place automation replaces the time-consuming and labor-intensive solar panel assembly process.

10% Increased Power Density
By using smaller cells and improved manufacturing techniques, the packing factor for both simple and complex solar array shapes improves significantly. Panels can be optimized by placing cells closer together and reducing waste around panel mechanical interfaces.

Reduced Lead Time
Instead of using larger cells to reduce labor hours, Sierra Space’s solution optimizes manufacturing using robotics, resulting in a zero-touch labor process. Utilizing a “one-size-fits-all” solar cell strategy, Sierra Space can stock solar cells in large quantities to minimize design and manufacturing time.

Lower Cost
Some power systems approach 50% of total satellite costs. With decreased design time, the ability to volume manufacture cells and human-free assembly, Sierra Space’s SMT dramatically reduces solar array costs while increasing quality and reliability.

SMT Flight History

  • In 2017, the SMT became flight-proven on board the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Satellite for High Accuracy Radar Calibration (SHARC) mission. The 5U cubesat solar array panel took three months from purchase order to delivery, with the pick-and-place process taking less than an hour. The functional testing for the SHARC panel included vibration testing, thermal cycling, large area pulsed solar simulator exposures, and numerous electrical verification tests.
    • The SMT solar array provided approximately 11W of power to the SHARC spacecraft – 25% more power than a conventional array. The system showed no significant signs of degradation in performance throughout the mission life (~10 months).
  • Sierra Space recently delivered 130W of SMT solar power for a GEO demonstration mission and 200W for a small LEO mission both slated for launch in 2021.
  • Sierra Space also recently launched SMT solar panels that provide the primary power for a small LEO demonstration mission. The power system is performing flawlessly and we continue to collect on-orbit data.