The US military is seriously considering the possibility of delivering cargo to different countries using powerful missiles. Rumors about this appeared a long time ago: the reasoning of high-ranking military men appeared in one media, then in another. But this year the project began to be considered quite seriously, with budget planning, logistics, etc.
At the very beginning of the year, the US Air Force published a budget for several years in the public domain (it probably does not reflect all activities, but still). And it just had an item called Rocket Cargo.
What is the point, what is it all about?
This refers to a section on page 305 here of this document… It indicates that the budget for rocket cargo transportation, or rather the budget of the project being developed, is $ 47.9 million.Financing begins in October 2021.
The document also states that the US Air Force plans to use the investment to develop the largest missile ever. Moreover, they can be reused, and the rocket itself will be able to go anywhere in the world. The rocket will be able to deliver a load of 100 tons within an hour – again, to any point on Earth.
As you can see, the name of the Elon Musk rocket is not indicated anywhere, but at the moment it is the only one capable of satisfying the stated requirements. In this case, the delivery should be budgetary. If we talk about the super-heavy missile SLS, then the situation is different: its launch will cost the military several billion US dollars, so in most cases the use of such a transport becomes meaningless.
The military of any country needs operational logistics, and so far nothing can be faster than a rocket – the usual methods of delivering goods, including ships, railways, planes and cars, are many times slower.
Rocket logistics in 2021 will be allocated about USD 10 million. In subsequent years, the amount is likely to be increased. True, as always, you will have to wait for the approval of Congress, but everything should be fine here: military issues are solved by politics faster than others.
SpaceX has already worked with the US military – it launched their satellites into orbit, for example. Now, if the funding runs out, Elon Musk will get a partner with very deep pockets that are literally full of money. Perhaps this project will help speed up the colonization of Mars, who knows. After all, the Starship rocket will be built using military funds – the US Air Force plans to accelerate development.
What time frame are we talking about?
The most interesting thing is that this is no longer a fantasy. The US military talks about their intention to implement their plans in the near future. If we were talking about 10-20 years, one could still imagine that this is another strange project that will receive huge funding and will eventually be closed, which has happened more than once. Let’s remember, for example, the rail gun – its development lasted 10 years, a lot of money was spent, and in the end the railgun turned out to be impractical and was removed.
The rocket is not a railgun, of course, but still. Another interesting nuance: the military does not offer its own loading and unloading technologies. The decision about which technology to use depends on the contracting company.
As stated above, this will most likely be SpaceX. But perhaps the military will turn and to Jeff Bezos with his Blue Origin. When asked who exactly would get the contract, an Air Force spokesman said the army had spoken to a much larger number of companies. And if some of them do not have the necessary technologies now, then the military will stimulate the acceleration of their development by investing significant funds. The military wants more than one supplier to mitigate the risks.
Definitely, the US military wants to be the first in terms of obtaining missile delivery technologies. Army officials said the Defense Department is going to buy the first few transport missile launches to test logistics.
One of the important issues is the presence or absence of a cosmodrome at the landing / takeoff site. According to the military, they hope that the developers of space technologies will be able to achieve takeoff and landing of rocket transport, even on rough terrain. Now the task is to find out the features of such a landing or takeoff, as well as to analyze the regions where the rocket could theoretically land.
Is Starship ready?
Nearly. Elon Musk’s company is preparing for the first orbital flight of its rocket, planning to implement the launch this year. The application was filed with the US FCC on May 13, and the flight itself may take place as early as this month.
According to the plan, the system from the first stage of the Super Heavy and the Starship will be launched from a launch pad in Texas. 171 seconds after the start of the flight, the first stage will separate from the second and land 32 kilometers off the coast of the United States. The second stage will enter orbit, orbit the planet, then re-enter the atmosphere and descend 100 kilometers from one of the islands of the Hawaiian archipelago.
If everything goes as planned, perhaps the military will be able to send cargo in the near future.