Select Page

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Uncrewed Dream Chaser® Transportation Trailer


The Mines team, Digger Space Solutions (DSS), was tasked with exploring design solutions for towing the Uncrewed Dream Chaser vehicle from the runway at Kennedy Space Center to the Space Station Processing Facility for the client, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). The Uncrewed Dream Chaser is currently tasked with several resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS). There were many constraints imposed on the team due to the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) restrictions, client-imposed requirements, and Federal and State transportation requirements.

DISCLAIMER: The information and content provided on this website is limited due to NDA restrictions. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Team Members

  • Amanda Field – Product Owner

  • Daniel Sternesky – Electrical Lead

  • Michael Scheid – Jacking System Lead

  • Jared Olson – UDC Trailer Lead

  • Robert “Mitch” Hobbs – Tow Bracket Lead

  • Leo Shepard-Martinez – Tow GSE Lead

The Client

  • Sierra Nevada Corporation


Project Advisor: Jim Beseda

Client Advisors: Alexis Rozowski, Jordan Haines & Tim Leadens


Elevator Pitch

Our elevator pitch video is still in the process of being reviewed by Sierra Nevada Corporation’s security team. Due to NDA restrictions, we are unable to publish the video at this time. 

Design Approach

The main deliverables requested by the client included a Trade Study presentation at the end of the first semester to demonstrate the design exploration of three levels of solutions; Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. From there, the client selected their preferred design with DSS’s recommendation. DSS recommended that Tier 1 be selected for further design development and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) agreed and supported that decision. The second semester of the project was then focused on further design development, modeling, analysis, drawing creation, requirement verification, recommended test procedures, and recommended fabrication for a fully developed Tier 1 design. The final integrated Tier 1 design known as the Uncrewed Dream Chaser® spaceplane Trailer, herein referred to as Trailer.

Design Solution

The Trailer is comprised of two SNC End Items that DSS was tasked with developing: the Dream Chaser Tow Ground Support Equipment (GSE), herein referred to as Tow GSE, and the Dream Chaser Tow Bracket, Nose Landing Gear (NLG), herein referred to as Tow Bracket. The Tow GSE is comprised of a welded frame body atop a two-axel system, Department of Transportation (DOT) compatible wheels and tires, a Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) welded jack system, a custom welded jack attachment component, custom attached hitch for towing, braking, and lighting equipment. The Tow Bracket is a fully customized two-piece titanium frame consisting of two separate side plates, a stability pin, and two additional mounting pins which are fully adapted for interface with the NLG of the Dream Chaser vehicle.

Next Steps

The spring semester concluded with DSS presenting a full design package to SNC on April 9, 2020. The team also delivered a Concept Design Review presentation virtually and the design received approval from numerous SNC attendees including, but not limited to, the Ground Systems team, the Ground Operations team, Quality, and the Chief Engineer’s Office.

Meet the Team

Amanda Field

My name is Amanda Field and I am a senior studying Mechanical Engineering and pursuing a masters degree in Engineering Technology Management. I was originally interested in this project due to my interest in the aerospace and defense industry. I had spent the summer of my junior year interning as a test engineer with Northrop Grumman and had developed a passion for problem solving, design development, and project management. This project seemed to be a great opportunity to work with another great aerospace company, Sierra Nevada Corporation, on a unique piece of ground support equipment to support the Dream Chaser® spaceplane.

Throughout this project, I loved getting to serve as the Product Owner which provided me many opportunities to grow and learn many new project management techniques.  I also appreciated the opportunity to work with requirements documents and tailoring our design to meet certain specifications which is a crucial skill to have as an engineer and problem solver. Overall, this project taught me valuable lessons about team work, having an adapting mindset, and the importance and rigor of a fully carried out design process.

After graduation in May 2020, I am looking forward to continuing my education at Mines and finishing my masters degree in conjunction with pursuing part-time employment opportunities to continue to build upon my skills before seeking full-time employment in May 2021. 

Daniel Sternesky

My name is Daniel Sternesky and I am an Electrical Engineering major. I do not have a minor, but I have extensive programming experience. I became interested in this project primarily because of what I had heard about the client, Sierra Nevada Corporation. I did not have any experience with the company in the past besides talking to them at career fairs, but when I investigated what they do, I was intrigued. I enjoyed being the only one in my major on this team. It made for unique struggles, but more unique opportunities to learn and grow. I learned an incredible amount about Systems Engineering and designing to strict specifications. The whole two-semester process of designing different tiers and then focusing on one to move forward with set a good tempo for our project. We ran into some roadblocks along the way as well. I learned that more communication is always better. Even if it might be time consuming and getting hung up on progress just because you need one question answered is never worth it. Additionally, I learned that it is better not to assume information. If it needs to be done, one should note the assumptions somewhere where others can see and give feedback, whether good or bad. I am currently still seeking full-time employment after graduation.

Michael Scheid

Hello! My name is Michael Scheid and I am majoring in Mechanical Engineering with hopes of doing a post-grad online minor in Computer Science. I was initially drawn to this project as I am will be working for the Department of Defense (DoD) after graduation, and I thought that working with a company that has several DoD contracts would give me good exposure to the environment I will be entering. Over the course of this project I was exposed to many industry standards and practices I was previously unaware of. Overall, these experiences were extremely useful, and I believe they have helped to shape my career path moving forward. After I am finished here at the Colorado School of Mines I will be working as a Nuclear Engineer with the United States Navy for the following five years.

Jared Olson

My name is Jared and I am a senior in Mechanical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. I will be graduating in May of 2020. I was interested in this project because I would like to work in the aerospace industry throughout my career so I thought this project with SNC would be a good place to start. I enjoyed the design freedom that came with this project that allowed us to use our imaginations to come up with creative solutions. I have a greater respect for requirements as well as the necessity of teamwork when designing a complex system.

After graduation, I will be starting as a manufacturing engineer for Sierra Nevada Corporation in their aviation department.

Robert “Mitch” Hobbs

My name is Mitch Hobbs and I am graduating senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering with an Area of Special Interest (ASI) in Space and Planetary Sciences and Engineering.  Initially, I was interested in the Dream Chaser Trailer project because of my passion for the aerospace industry, particularly spacecraft. Throughout the duration of the project, I found it extremely satisfying to take a list of seemingly arbitrary letters and numbers and develop them into a fully functional design. One of my major takeaways was that in school we have a set of fixed requirements, but in practice, requirements have a significantly more fluid state. New information may be brought to light or an element of the design can be altered that leads to a requirement change. These requirement changes can lead to new and interesting design challenges that can be frustrating, yet fun, to tackle. After graduation, I will be working with Northrop Grumman’s Innovation Systems Division, formerly Orbital ATK, as a Propulsion Engineer. My future plans also include pursuing a graduate degree in either Engineering or Business Administration.

Leo Shepard-Martinez

Hello, my name is Leo Shepard-Martinez and I’m a senior in Mechanical Engineering at Colorado School of Mines. I’m currently employed with Sandia National Laboratories and will be graduating with a master’s in Advanced Manufacturing (with a focus on Additive Manufacturing) in spring of 2021. I’ve always had an interest in working in the Aerospace industry, and this spurred my interest in working on the capstone project for SNC. This project gave me a lot of insight on how to properly design and verify your work in industry. I enjoyed being able to see how projects come together and change over multiple design iterations. After earning my masters, I plan on continuing to work in the defense industry and eventually start working in aerospace.