The US Air Force has revealed details of its ambitious plans for a space launch rocket that can deliver cargo weighing up to 100 tons anywhere in the world within an hour.
The service, in partnership with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, plans to conduct an end-to-end test of the Rocket Cargo program by the end of next year.
If successful, cargo and personnel of the equivalent payload of a C-17 would be transported at lightning speed.
The US Air Force has revealed details of its ambitious plans for a space launch rocket that can deliver cargo weighing up to 100 tons anywhere in the world within an hour. Pictured: An Air Force briefing slide
US Army General Stephen Lyons, head of Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), previously announced partnerships with Elon Musk’s SpaceX
The plans are included in the proposed fiscal year 2022 budget, which calls for nearly $48 million in additional funding for the program. The ride reported.
The amount is five times the funding the Air Force received for the program last year.
The Rocket Cargo program will be part of the agency’s Vanguard program, which identifies advanced research and technology that could be of interest to the military.
Others in the program include the Skyborg initiative for an AI computer capable of piloting unmanned aerial vehicles, the Golden Horde swarm munitions network project, and the Navigation Technology Satellite 3.
The budget document states: “The Department of the Air Force is seeking to leverage the current multi-billion dollar commercial investment to develop the largest missiles ever, and with full reusability to develop and test the ability to use a commercial missile.” to deliver AF cargo anywhere. on Earth in less than an hour, with a capacity of 100 tons.
If successful, cargo and personnel of the equivalent payload of a C-17 (photo) will be transported at lightning speed
“The Air Force is not investing in the development of commercial missiles, but rather in the science and technology needed to match capability with DoD logistical needs and expand commercial capability into DoD-unique missions.”
US Army General Stephen Lyons, chief of Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), previously announced partnerships with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and space design consultants Exploration Architecture Corporation to explore the idea.
Early designs in the Air Force’s plans appear to show a rocket similar to SpaceX’s spacecraft, which is being developed to carry cargo for commercial purposes.
The Air Force does not intend to invest directly in the development of the missile, but instead fund the science and technology needed to turn a missile like the Starship into a military craft.
TRANSCOM and Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) were the two commands that could use the Rocket Cargo, according to the Air Force.
Early designs in the Air Force’s plans appear to show a rocket resembling SpaceX’s spaceship (pictured)
One concept involves sending reusable rocket vehicles to extremely high altitudes in the atmosphere, landing at the locations where they are unloaded before returning to the original departure point.
The budget also refers to ‘air drop capacity’, indicating a potential interest in releasing payloads above a drop zone from space.
Being able to rapidly deploy troops or equipment around the world can be immensely valuable to the military for both conflict and humanitarian missions.
But similar proposals have been explored since the 1950s without any success because of the technical difficulties.
TRANSCOM and Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) were the two commands that could use the Rocket Cargo, the Air Force believes
Possible problems include launching from remote locations and the difficulty of hiding the launches from enemy attacks.
With a rocket booster full of fuel, it can also be a likely target for attacks.
The massive cost of the missions could also be a troubling factor, as SpaceX currently estimates a launch with a reusable Falcon 9 rocket will cost $62 million, though Musk hopes to reduce that figure to $2 million.
A C-17 currently costs about $540,000 to ship anywhere in the world, although flights can take up to 18 hours.
A recent effort by the US military to explore a space cargo concept was announced by the Pentagon in the 2000s.
Bosses said optimistically that the plans for Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) would be feasible within a decade.