BOULDER - Sierra Nevada Corp. on Wednesday announced it will work with the European Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center on the further development of the Dream Chaser spacecraft.

Specifics of what the partnerships might entail are still being discussed and to be determined, Mark Sirangelo, head of SNC's Space Systems division in Louisville, said from Virginia in a conference call with media. But the general idea is that there could be applications of European technology for the current Dream Chaser design as well as future versions of the vehicle. No financial terms of the deals were disclosed.

The seven-passenger Dream Chaser test vehicle was built in Louisville before being shipped to California in May for testing.

Sirangelo said the new partnerships will help SNC define other missions for Dream Chaser outside that of transporting crew and cargo for NASA. Sierra Nevada Corp. has worked closely with and received funding from NASA in the development of Dream Chaser as a possible replacement for the retired space shuttles. But Sirangelo said NASA never intended to be the sole market for Dream Chaser.

Other markets for Dream Chaser could include things like satellite deployment and debris collection.

Sirangelo said SNC will benefit from the expertise at the European Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center, which goes by DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt), as it continually is looking at ways to upgrade and vary Dream Chaser, which the company touts as a versatile spacecraft capable of several applications.

"Many of the technologies that have been advanced by ESA and DLR are very pertinent to what we're trying to accomplish today," Sirangelo said. "I think what we have is a long-term understanding of how we can work together."

European countries will benefit from having access to Dream Chaser flights to advance their own space technologies and interests, he said.

Elena Grifoni Winters, head of the coordination office and directorate of human spaceflight and operations for the ESA, participated in Wednesday's conference call along with Johann-Dietrich Worner, chairman of the executive board of the DLR.

Both gave examples of things their organizations might assist with in the development of Dream Chaser, such as the docking system to connect to the International Space Station. Worner also said his organization has expertise in certain re-entry materials that could make Dream Chaser lighter along with air-traffic management expertise that could come in handy given that Dream Chaser has the ability to land at commercial airports.

So far, Worner said, there is a wide range of ideas that could be developed and implemented through the new partnership with SNC.

"But there is a clear commitment that we are eager and ready to develop it," Worner said.

Based on glowing results from an unmanned test flight in October, Sirangelo said the testing schedule for Dream Chaser could be accelerated by a few months, with both autonomous and manned test flights expected to occur this year.

The first unmanned space mission for NASA is slated for 2016, with the first manned mission scheduled for 2017. The vehicle that will be used for those flights is being built now in Louisiana.