Earth Day: Our Planet and Our Future in Space

Earth Day Sierra Space Dram Chaser

Planet Earth is home to an incredibly complex and diverse ecosystem. Having been developed over the course of 4.5 billion years, we are fortunate to be able to study such diversity and take positive action towards protecting our planet. That’s why at Sierra Space our mission is to build a platform in space to benefit life on Earth.

With access to space, we have been able to make discoveries to help better understand our home and monitor environments that need protection. Future innovations developed by private sector specialist astronauts in fields including materials science and alternative energy will continue to improve the lives of billions of people here on Earth.

But it’s more than that. The technology that makes living and working possible in low-Earth Orbit (LEO) will have direct applications upon improving our stewardship of the environment as well.  Which is why aligning our planet and the future of space is vital to our future endeavors at Sierra Space.

Earth Day sprang to life in 1970. It occurred after decades of environmental protection work by small groups focused on individual problems failed to impact America’s worsening pollution problems, further damaging nature. The plan led by Democrat Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin and Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey of California was to choose a day to mobilize all environmental concerns under a single banner. April 22 was cleverly chosen by Earth Day’s founders to fall between Spring break and final exams for college students. The gambit paid off well. Our first Earth Day involved the engagement of 20 million Americans, or almost 10% of the country’s population at the time.

Sierra Space believes Earth Day and the Orbital Age® are linked because of everything space has to offer Earth and the health of our terrestrial environment.

Sierra Space’s contributions to a better, cleaner world starts with the Dream Chaser® spaceplane. Its commitment to improving life on Earth is evident in its basic design. Each spaceplane in the Dream Chaser fleet, including Tenacity®, the first to fly, will be reusable for up to 15 missions.

Such high reusability means vital logistical missions to space will require the construction of fewer vehicles, meaning less materials and energy will be consumed transforming the Orbital Age from dream into reality. What’s more, we are also actively investigating the potential to offset all emissions generated by Dream Chaser launches. This is a complex subject involving serious math—but our team is treating it as just another technical challenge like so many others we’ve overcome.

How Sierra Space will soon transport specialist astronauts to LEO is just the start of our contributions to Earth. A second way our planet will benefit from the Orbital Age is the advent of next generation microgravity bio-agricultural products to increase plant productivity and resource recovery. (Vegetables grown in space will make astronauts less dependent on supplies transported from Earth, saving precious space on Dream Chaser launches for important scientific gear and other critical equipment.)

Our efforts to create vegetables capable of      growing off-world began with Veggie, the first Sierra Space system used to grow experimental crops in space. This work continues with the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH), which has been producing edible crops aboard the International Space Station (ISS) since 2017. The APH has produced a variety of produce, including radishes and chili peppers, used to prepare the first space tacos. The latest tech to take flight is XROOTS. This will reduce power and mass requirements to grow food in space while also increasing the volume grown.

Although all this innovation remains focused on the challenges of producing food in LEO, the plant strains developed will also benefit agriculture back home. Hearty vegetables that can grow in tough conditions can turn barren land on Earth into food-bearing acreage. Also, when plants grow where they previously couldn’t, our environment flourishes, from carbon consumed by the plants to animals having a new extension to their ecosystem.

Some of the technology developed and used by astronauts aboard Dream Chaser and LIFE® habitats will find environmental applications back on Earth. That’s because they are all centered on achieving maximum efficiency in the usage of water, energy, and space. For example, the Trash Compaction and Processing System (TCPS) provides efficient waste sanitation, stabilization, and resource recovery while reducing the mass, power, and physical footprint of waste materials. The output is a stable tile which can be disposed of easily. On Earth, this technology offers to not only preserve water and space, but also to make waste less likely to pollute rivers and other water bodies.

Based on all these developments and more, Sierra Space is proud to celebrate Earth Day daily. We believe utilizing innovative technology and opening

LEO to the private sector will help us benefit life on Earth. If you are ready to fulfill humanity’s dreams of space while simultaneously improving our planet, consider joining our growing team.

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