October 11, 2016 – The Dream Chaser for European Utilization (DC4EU) program kicked off its pilot phase with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), Telespazio, the European Space Agency (ESA) and OHB System AG (OHB) will now assess the feasibility and commercial viability of the DC4EU dedicated mission to provide affordable, independent European access to low-Earth orbit (LEO) via the Dream Chaser space utility vehicle (SUV).
“The Dream Chaser SUV is the only reusable, lifting-body spacecraft with a commercial runway landing capability anywhere in the world – offering safe, affordable, flexible and reliable transportation to space,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s space systems business area. “That is exactly what our industry team is offering Europe during the ISS transition phase.”
The DC4EU Pilot Phase
The DC4EU mission was one of eight selected by ESA to begin pilot phase implementation in 2016. It offers the best value for European access to LEO by providing a full end-to-end mission capability using the unique attributes of the SUV including compatibility with the European Ariane 6 launch vehicle and the ability to land on suitable runways for near-immediate payload access.
The objective of the pilot phase is to demonstrate the technical and programmatic feasibility of DC4EU, which includes the preparation of a business plan highlighting the partnership viability for both private and public interests.
“Commercial partnerships are a new element of the ESA Space Exploration Program. They open up space exploration for private sector-led initiatives and offer exciting opportunities for advancing the implementation of the ESA strategic goals for space exploration in novel ways and for enlarging the stakeholder community actively engaged in exploring space,” said David Parker, ESA director for Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration.
Dr. Fritz Merkle, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Board Member of OHB Group highlighted another key use for future missions, “One national and international mission goal is a sustained utilization of human-tended infrastructures beyond the life of the International Space Station (ISS) with increased cost efficiency and responsiveness to utilization interests.”
Giuseppe Aridon, Vice President Strategy and Marketing of Telespazio explains: “DC4EU could represent a valuable platform to enable independent European access to LEO through a ‘customized’ European variant of the Dream Chaser spacecraft. We are willing to explore the potential of such a promising solution, that could be a major element for the setting up of the future European LEO service missions ecosystem, that will see the Dream Chaser operating alongside other European assets and infrastructures for first of a kind transatlantic partnership in this field, with true a global perspective!”
In March 2015, ESA released a Call for Ideas (CFI) for strategic partnerships with the private sector in the field of Space Exploration. In response, OHB System AG (Germany), Sierra Nevada Corporation (USA) and Telespazio SpA (Italy) teamed to create what is now called Dream Chaser for European Utilization (DC4EU). ESA has selected the DC4EU mission out of 60 partnership ideas for a pilot phase implementation.
Developed by SNC, the Dream Chaser SUV is contracted by NASA to provide cargo services to and from the ISS under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract. The uncrewed Dream Chaser spacecraft variant is capable of transporting pressurized and unpressurized cargo to and from LEO with controlled entry and landing on approved airports.