The Department of Defense has quietly awarded a contract for the Sierra Nevada Corporation to turn its Shooting Star cargo spacecraft into a small experimental space station, The Drive reports.
The defense contractor has been developing the spacecraft since 2016 as a way to resupply the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program.
The craft is 16 feet long and is designed to carry 10,000 pounds of cargo into orbit. Six thrusters allow it to adjust its orbit independently. SNC’s Dream Chaser, a Space Shuttle lookalike, is designed to carry the capsule into orbit and even as far as Moon’s orbit.
The company is hoping to turn the Shooting Star into a small space station meant for “space assembly, microgravity, experimentation, logistics, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation,” according to a press release.
“We’re excited by the multi-mission nature of Shooting Star,” SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen said in the press release. “The possible applications for Shooting Star are really endless.”
The company is already looking at sending such a space station to orbits far beyond the ISS, including geosynchronous Earth orbits, and even cislunar orbits.
“We are proud to offer our transport vehicle to DoD as a free-flying destination for experimentation and testing, expanding beyond its current payload service capabilities for Dream Chaser cargo missions,” said senior vice president of strategy for SNC’s Space Systems Steve Lindsey.
While initial Shooting Star capsules will be unmanned, The Drive suggests the Pentagon may be interested in moving on using it as a manned outpost as well.
READ MORE: The Pentagon Moves To Launch Its Own Experimental Mini Space Station [The Drive]
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