Woerner joined Mark Sirangelo, head of Sierra Nevada Space Systems, in announcing a collaboration that could lead to European use of the company's Dream Chaser reusable space plane, and Sierra Nevada's incorporation into future Dream Chaser upgrades of thermal protection, avionics, air traffic management and other technology developed in Europe, particularly during the Hermes and Crew Return Vehicle spaceplane programs.
“It looks like it is really a synergetic approach of different competencies which we can put together,” Woerner says, calling for a broad mix-and-match framework that allows the use of different space systems, regardless of origin, to achieve redundancy.
In the Sierra Nevada/European collaboration, this could include a use of Ariane launchers to carry the Dream Chaser, which is baselined for the Atlas V. It would also provide Germany with additional leverage in its scuffle with France over future European launcher developments.
“Redundancy is one of the most important aspects in space,” Woerner emphasizes. “We all know if a system fails that we have a long time to investigate the cause. Therefore I would say there is not only the use of some technology for the future of the Dream Chaser, but why not also use the launching system from Europe—the Ariane 5 ME—as a launcher, not only Atlas V, to have a combination in that field across the Atlantic.”