This article originally appeared in the April 9, 2018 issue of SpaceNews magazine.
Sierra Nevada Corp. plays a unique role in the aerospace industry. Like traditional contractors, it’s a major systems integrator with billions of dollars in annual revenue stemming from civil, commercial and military work. But it’s also a private company, like SpaceX and Blue Origin, making enormous investments in future space capabilities.
SNC’s largest investment to date is in Dream Chaser, the spaceplane NASA selected in the initial rounds of its campaign to encourage companies to build private space taxis to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. After awarding SNC more than $312 million for Dream Chaser development, NASA passed over SNC to award commercial crew contracts in 2014 to competitors Boeing and SpaceX. That loss was incredibly painful, Eren and Fatih Ozmen said in their first joint interview, but they quickly decided to continue investing in Dream Chaser.
Unlike SpaceX and Blue Origin, SNC is not very well known. It was a small, family-owned electronics business in Stead, Nevada, when Fatih, a former Turkish cycling champion with a master’s degree in electrical engineering, joined as an intern in 1981. In 1989, SNC hired Fatih’s ...