Jupiter/Exoliner Reportedly Eliminated From NASA Supply Contract, Dream Chaser Still Alive

Jupiter/EXoliner Credit: Lockheed Martin

Credit: Lockheed Martin

The Wall Street Journal reports that Lockheed Martin has been eliminated from NASA’a CRS-2 competition to award the next round of space station cargo resupply missions. According to the article, which quotes unnamed sources, the decision has been widely understood since the summer, and was made primarily based upon price.


The Lockheed Martin proposal, a two part combination called Jupiter/Exoliner involved a permanent cargo transfer vessel built in partnership with Canada’s MDM, which would grasp Exoliner cargo pods delivered to orbit by the Atlas V booster.  After unloading the craft, which contained both pressurized and unpressurized elements, the Jupiter would guide it back from ISS towards a destructive re-entry, and then loiter in orbit waiting for the next arrival.

Lockheed Martin pitched the comparatively complicated system as a long term solution for deep space applications, able to support a variety of missions both governmental and commercial.

If the report is accurate, it further raises the question of what exactly has taken the agency so long to evaluate the other four proposals, leading to three delays in announcing the winners. SpaceX, Orbital ATK, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation remain in the running. For SNC, it may be the last, best chance for Dream Chaser, and if the now automated space plane ultimately gets a piece of the action, that alone could explain the time necessary to fully evaluate what would likely be seen as the riskiest of the proposals.

For an agency which spent nearly 4o years building and flying a winged spacecraft, the appeal of Dream Chaser is likely to be a strong one. With the Air Force having demonstrated successful and apparently affordable recovery and re-flight of another automated space plane, X-37B, that NASA once called its own but then abandoned, the opportunity to return to (almost) winged flight without the complicating factor of human safety requirements could be compelling. It is after all, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency.


Automated Dream Chaser  / Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation


The winners are expected to be announced next month.



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1 Comment on "Jupiter/Exoliner Reportedly Eliminated From NASA Supply Contract, Dream Chaser Still Alive"

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  1. PK Sink says:

    Stewart, I’d love to see the Dream Chaser get the nod. But I’m shocked that they haven’t even attempted another glide flight. And what’s up with their propulsion system? Risky!

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