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Technology The Air Force Wants to Drop 100 Tons of Cargo From Space

03:40  05 june  2021
03:40  05 june  2021 Source:   popularmechanics.com

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The U.S. Air Force wants Congress to cough up .9 million to fund a new transport concept for sending supplies and equipment across the Earth in under one hour—via a quick trip through space . The Rocket Cargo program is a priority for the service. Here's how it would likely work: The Air Force would maintain a fleet of cargo rockets on standby, each derived around a commercially developed space launch system. The service could quickly launch the rockets from established space bases like Vandenberg on the West Coast, the Kennedy Space Center on the East Coast, or even an

The Air force wants to examine the benefits and challenges of using rockets to move 100 tons of cargo to any location in the world in less than an hour. “Rocket cargo will demonstrate new trajectories and ways to fly large rockets, the ability to land rockets at austere locations, and design and test an ejectable pod for air drop ,” said the budget request. The funds would pay for prototypes to be used in field experiments and tests in simulated environments. The description of the project suggests the Air Force is interested in exploring the capabilities of very large reusable space vehicles — like SpaceX’s

Rocket Cargo calls for a 100-ton rocket capable of airdropping cargo virtually anywhere in the world within minutes. © SpaceX/Flickr Rocket Cargo calls for a 100-ton rocket capable of airdropping cargo virtually anywhere in the world within minutes.
  • The U.S. Air Force wants $47.9 million to support its Rocket Cargo concept.
  • Rocket Cargo calls for a 100-ton rocket capable of airdropping cargo virtually anywhere in the world within minutes.
  • This system would use an existing space rocket, modified to suit the service's needs.

The U.S. Air Force wants Congress to cough up $47.9 million to fund a new transport concept for sending supplies and equipment across the Earth in under one hour—via a quick trip through space.

The Rocket Cargo program is a priority for the service. It's outlined in the Air Force's 462-page budget request for Research, Development, Test & Evaluation. The document, published last week, outlines four new (unclassified) technologies the Air Force wants to invest in during the 2022 fiscal year, including the blandly named Rocket Cargo proposal. It doesn't mention a tentative first flight date.

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Next year, the Air Force wants to test a way to move a C-17's worth of cargo , and potentially personnel, extremely quickly to any location on Earth. The U.S. Air Force has released new details about its questionably ambitious plans to develop a capability to send payloads weighing up to 100 tons , including cargo and potentially personnel, roughly equivalent to the maximum load of a C-17 airlifter, anywhere in the world within one hour via a space launch rocket or derivative thereof.

If this mission goes well, the space agency plans to use Nuri to launch a 200 kg payload in May 2022. South Korea flew a rocket known as KSLV-1, which placed a satellite into low Earth orbit, in 2013. However, its first stage was built in Russia. The Air Force does not intend to invest directly into the vehicle's development, the document says. However, it proposes to fund science and technology needed to interface with the Starship vehicle so that the Air Force might leverage its capabilities. Clearly, some Air Force officials are intrigued by the possibility of launching 100 tons of cargo from

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Rocket Cargo, as the request states, will "demonstrate new trajectories and ways to fly large rockets, the ability to land rockets at austere locations, and design and test an ejectable pod for air drop." The rocket could theoretically fly supplies, equipment, and maybe even troops from the continental U.S. to pretty much anywhere else in the world within a matter of minutes.

text: air force justification book 1 of 3 © Screenshot/Air Force Justification Book Volume 1 of 3 air force justification book 1 of 3

The rocket would be an existing commercial design, modified for Air Force purposes. It would be capable of carrying 100 tons and feature an ejectable cargo pod. Rather than land the entire rocket in contested territory—with the cargo sitting 100 feet or more off the ground—the concept calls for a shorter, squatter pod to make the landing instead. That would make the cargo more accessible to logisticians without specialized unloading equipment, and perhaps even allow vehicles to roll off under their own power.

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The Air Force and Space Force will also study air drops from rockets to deliver cargo areas where the vehicle can’t safely land. “If the commercial side indeed builds the ability to do point-to-point cargo transport on the planet, we want to be one of the first users and early adopters of this capability The Starship is designed to be fully reusable, and can haul more than 100 metric tons of payload into low Earth orbit, more than any other rocket in the world. During an orbital launch attempt, a reusable Super Heavy first stage booster will detach from the Starship, which fills the role of an upper stage, and

The Air Force ’s C-17 cargo plan today can move 100 tons . Why use rockets? “Fundamentally, because a rocket can get all the way around the planet in 90 minutes, and an airplane cannot,” Spanjers told reporters on Friday in a video teleconference. “In the event of conflict or humanitarian crisis, the Space Force will be able to provide our national leadership with an independent option to achieve strategic objectives from space .” It’s not just SpaceX. Spanjers was asked repeatedly by reporters to identify what commercial launch vehicles besides SpaceX’s Starship could possible meet the rocket

a large jet sitting on top of a truck: Rocket Cargo will carry 100 tons of cargo—15 tons more than the Air Force © CAPT. ROBYN HAAKE - Getty Images Rocket Cargo will carry 100 tons of cargo—15 tons more than the Air Force

The Air Force began studying the concept in 2020, and consulted with Elon Musk's SpaceX to flesh out the concept.

Here's how it would likely work: The Air Force would maintain a fleet of cargo rockets on standby, each derived around a commercially developed space launch system. The service could quickly launch the rockets from established space bases like Vandenberg on the West Coast, the Kennedy Space Center on the East Coast, or even an "unusual" austere launch location, like a hastily converted parking lot or field.

In the event of conflict, U.S. forces abroad could request a quick Rocket Cargo resupply. After loadmasters place the cargo into the capsule/pod, the rocket would blast off into low-Earth orbit. Over the drop zone, the cargo capsule would separate and slowly descend onto an austere landing zone. Then, loadmasters would finally unload the cargo, ready for battle.

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The Department of the Air Force 's latest budget request asks for 3.7 billion, which includes an increase in research, development, test, and evaluation funding but a decrease in funds for procurement. "That requires us to take a hard look with the services with capabilities that will not be relevant in a future fight and really begin to no longer invest in them," he said. For the Air Force , that means retiring a couple hundred planes, most of which are fighter and attack aircraft. Here is what could be headed to the boneyard.

The US Air Force has revealed details about its ambitious plans for a space launch rocket which could deliver cargo weighing up to 100 tons to anywhere in the world within an hour. The service, working in partnership with Elon Musk's SpaceX, wants to carry out an One concept involves sending reusable rocket-boosted vehicles to extremely high altitudes within the atmosphere, landing at the sites where they are unloaded before they return to the initial departure point. The budget also makes reference to ' air drop capability' indicating a possible interest in releasing payloads over a drop zone from space .

The Air Force says Rocket Cargo won't require the development of a new space launch system, an expensive process that would add years to the system's development. Instead, the service wants to use an existing commercial rocket.

The main contender in the commercial field is the SpaceX Starship, which is the most mature vessel among all commercial superheavy space launch systems. Plus, the Air Force's 100-ton carry objective neatly dovetails with Starship's 100-ton capacity.

a train on a track with smoke coming out of it: Starship test vehicle SN15. © SpaceX/Flickr Starship test vehicle SN15.

The Air Force's prior work with SpaceX on the Rocket Cargo concept makes it even more likely that a collaboration could take place. Although Starship has a different concept for operation—it takes off and lands in one piece—the Air Force could still modify the cargo section to turn it into a detachable pod.

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This is interesting!