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posted by Fnord666 on Monday June 07, @11:41PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the speedy-delivery dept.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/06/the-military-wants-to-use-rockets-for-cargo-delivery-anywhere-on-earth/

The Air Force confirmed a strong interest in delivery of cargo around the world—by rockets—during an hourlong conference call with reporters on Friday. Military officials said they were elevating the cargo initiative to become the newest "Vanguard Program," indicating a desire to move the concept from an experimental state into an operational capability.

"This idea has been around since the dawn of spaceflight," said Dr. Greg Spanjers, an Air Force scientist and the Rocket Cargo Program Manager. "It's always been an intriguing idea. We've looked at it about every 10 years, but it's never really made sense. The reason we're doing it now is because it looks like technology may have caught up with a good idea."

Ars first reported about the "Rocket Cargo" program in the Air Force's budget request on Monday. As part of its $200 billion annual budget, the Air Force is seeking $47.9 million to leverage emerging commercial rocket capabilities to launch cargo from one location and land elsewhere on Earth.

During Friday's call, the officials explained what they're looking for in more depth. "Fundamentally, a rocket can get around the world in 90 minutes, and an airplane cannot," Spanjers said.

Previously:
The US Military is Starting to Get Really Interested in Starship


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The US Military is Starting to Get Really Interested in Starship 32 comments

The US military is starting to get really interested in Starship:

As part of last week's federal budget rollout, a process during which the White House proposes funding levels for fiscal year 2022, the US Air Force released its "justification book" to compare its current request to past budget data. The 462-page book contains a lot of information about how the Air Force spends its approximately $200 billion budget.

For those tracking the development of SpaceX's ambitious Starship vehicle, there is an interesting tidbit tucked away on page 305, under the heading of "Rocket Cargo" (see .pdf). The Air Force plans to invest $47.9 million into this project in the coming fiscal year, which begins October 1.

"The Department of the Air Force seeks to leverage the current multi-billion dollar commercial investment to develop the largest rockets ever, and with full reusability to develop and test the capability to leverage a commercial rocket to deliver AF cargo anywhere on the Earth in less than one hour, with a 100-ton capacity," the document states.

Starship, more than just an expensive ride. Quick military equipment delivery en route.


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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 07, @11:51PM (14 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 07, @11:51PM (#1142960)

    They originally solved this problem the same way amazon does: they have stuff close by so they don't have to send it half way around the world when its critical. It also seems an incredibly expensive way to deliver cargo. So it won't be sued very often - only when they failed to plan for the need and are willing to spend the money to admit that, to anyone observing.

    So tech that won't be used outside of war, and probably not then. Or, tech that doesn't ever half to work. Or $50 million dollars to spend on ensuring the general's cushy retirement gig...

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @12:16AM (7 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @12:16AM (#1142971)

      Let' see. The current Abrams is about 75 short tons. How much with crew, fuel and ammo?

      • (Score: 2) by DECbot on Tuesday June 08, @12:35AM (2 children)

        by DECbot (832) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 08, @12:35AM (#1142976) Journal

        Crew and ammo won't change the numbers by too much in comparison to the mass of the tank. For re-entry, I doubt you can rely solely on parachutes. So, much of the deceleration will likely need to be powered. That will make rocket fuel the big variable for the mass calculations. Let's see, do you want a soft landing or an explosion on impact?

        --
        cats~$ sudo chown -R us /home/base
        • (Score: 2) by coolgopher on Tuesday June 08, @01:17AM

          by coolgopher (1157) on Tuesday June 08, @01:17AM (#1142983)

          do you want a soft landing or an explosion on impact?

          Depends on the selected mode of operation, I'd say. There's an untapped market niche for combined transport+ICBM I think. And you can always count on the armed forces to spend ridiculous amounts of money on ridiculous projects.

        • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @07:03AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @07:03AM (#1143053)

          Starship's infamous belly-flop manoeuvre uses air-brakes (the big wing-like flaps) to slow down during descent before a propulsive touchdown. This is designed to work with a full 100t payload. The biggest problems with hauling an Abrams would be standing it on end to fit in the cargo bay and bracing it for acceleration. Not impossible, but it would be hard on things.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by mhajicek on Tuesday June 08, @04:48AM

        by mhajicek (51) on Tuesday June 08, @04:48AM (#1143034)

        This was discussed on Ars. Consensus was it could fit, but would have to be up on end. A better use would be a Bradley and a bunch of infantry with heavy weapons and gear. Or rapid resupply for a SAM site.

      • (Score: 2) by driverless on Tuesday June 08, @09:10AM (2 children)

        by driverless (4770) on Tuesday June 08, @09:10AM (#1143069)

        I've heard of rockets delivering blast, fragmentation, shaped-charge, chemical and biological cargoes before, but never considered firing an Abrams at someone. What's the military utility in that?

        • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Tuesday June 08, @02:40PM

          by Freeman (732) on Tuesday June 08, @02:40PM (#1143141) Journal

          The utility is in the reusability of the rocket.

          --
          "I said in my haste, All men are liars." Psalm 116:11
        • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @04:12PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @04:12PM (#1143180)

          They could use it to get the Starliner, Orion or F-35 off the ground.

    • (Score: -1, Spam) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @12:30AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @12:30AM (#1142975)

      If America needs a nation destroyed, Jewish spies are the "tip of the spear." They go in under legitimate means taking advantage of the host nation's goodwill, then the few fifth-columnists grant them important positions in politics and industry, lobbying for increased third-world immigration and using their connections to cheat elections and referendums to make it so. Parallel to that, they will structure and implement "hate crime" laws to prevent criticism of the next step:

      Then, a bunch of Jewish human traffickers disguised as humanitarian NGOs bring in the destructive payload -- Swarthy untermensch from alien societies, taught BLM-style that it's okay to use violence to get what you want, or to be violent just because some perceived slight that 200 years ago may or may not have happened, because the Jews within the target society have already outlawed criticism of Jew-sanctioned demographic terrorism.

      Populations are demonized while the invaders burn, pillage, and loot; and thanks to Jewish entrenchment within the government, the local populations are powerless to defend themselves against the horde. Then the Rabbis get together to slurp foreskins and congratulate themselves for the same 2,000-year vengeance they're always blaming modern Christians for.

      This is on-topic, because you yourself described this exact same scenario as being more efficient than sending cargo-rockets hallway around the world. Unfortunately there is no defense against it, other than nuking everything, except the surgical removal of global Jewry and the mass-deportation of the scum they brought in.

      • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @01:20AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @01:20AM (#1142986)

        Yeah, it was Jews that dragged those swarthy Europeans around the world to colonize Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, and all those little islands. Lust for gold, tobacco, spices, sugar, and brown pussy had nothing to do with it.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday June 08, @01:31AM (3 children)

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday June 08, @01:31AM (#1142988) Journal

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOKm-qKACv8 [youtube.com]

      Theoretically, it could be very cheap with a fully reusable Starship. It may be able to use less fuel, no booster, or carry more than 100-150 tons (because it's suborbital). But then you need a landing site with the capability to refuel the rocket with methane and liquid oxygen, in order to send it back or to a different location.

      What cargo is so urgently needed that it can't wait 24 hours? If they need to deliver explosives, they can just use a hypersonic missile.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 2) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Tuesday June 08, @02:06AM (2 children)

        by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Tuesday June 08, @02:06AM (#1142993)

        Theoretically, it could be very cheap with a fully reusable Starship

        Practically it isn't, otherwise civilian companies would do it.

        The military only refrains from doing something when it's so grossly expensive they might start getting publicly lambasted for out-of-control expenditures. When it's only mildly grossly expensive, they'll do it because it's not their money. And with zero regards for the consequences to the environment or sustainability. Because national security.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @07:55AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @07:55AM (#1143058)

          SpaceX is talking about doing suborbital flights for both freight and passengers. As their vehicle is still in development and ticket prices aren't yet finalized we don't know if it will be commercially viable or not. There are no other entries into the market because Rocket Lab is still figuring out reusability, Blue Origin is still steadfastly ignoring the 'goes fast horizontally' part, and nobody else seems to understand the question.

          If the F-35 is any indication, public lambasting over costs isn't a consideration. Fitness for purpose isn't much of a priority either.

          Starship burns methalox which is one of the cleanest burning fuels in existence. It also has the potential to be fully carbon neutral which is vital for Musk's Mars project since there are no fossil fuels on Mars. The technology exists, it only needs to be scaled up to industrial levels. SpaceX is already working on the problem and Musk is offering a $100 million X-Prize to anyone who can beat him to it.

          As for sustainability, if the orbital launch this summer works out then Starship should start paying its own way launching Starlink satellites by the end of the year. It only needs to reach orbit since even a fully expended Starship with a full payload is cheaper than Falcon 9. Even if SN20 doesn't survive reentry it shouldn't take more than a dozen tries to get it right and the Crazy Elon belly flop already mostly works, so full reusability should happen by late next year at the latest. After that it is just a matter of getting the reliability up and the turnaround time down.

          Even if SpaceX isn't willing to sell them the rockets, they'll certainly be willing to sell tickets. At the prices and availability they are talking about it would be negligent for the military not to look into it.

        • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Tuesday June 08, @10:52AM

          by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 08, @10:52AM (#1143088)

          Could save money:

          Instead of 100s of big army bases, build one big army base and 100s of launch pads.

          No need for aircraft carriers.

  • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Monday June 07, @11:57PM (3 children)

    by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday June 07, @11:57PM (#1142965) Journal

    Who wouldn't want to get from L.A. to Sydney in an hour? Or even from L.A. to Van Nuys in an hour would be nice

    --
    Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @12:09AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @12:09AM (#1142968)

      TBH if you're in Commiefornia, any form of escape on any timeline must start to look good.

      • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @01:00AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @01:00AM (#1142980)

        Unless you're a Democrat, in which case you're living in your Utopua,

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Tuesday June 08, @02:09AM

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Tuesday June 08, @02:09AM (#1142994)

      Anywhere in LA to anywhere else in LA in one hour would be nice.

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @01:44AM (8 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @01:44AM (#1142990)

    Instead of wasting our nation's treasure on even more polluting transportation than any in use today, and at stratospheric cost, imagine if we entered the club of civilized nations where taxes paid for useful things like universal health care and no cost post-secondary education (i.e., invest in our young people).

    The US military is one of the largest pig troughs of corporate welfare in the country.

    The US military is also the last bastion of personal welfare in the country. Too dumb/unmotivated to go to university or to get a job? The US military wants you! The military will pay you to do worthless busywork all day while telling you that you are not a worthless loser on welfare-- maybe you are delusional, and believe it. Sometimes you might be asked to murder brown children and other brown people around the world for dubious reasons (usually related to stealing their natural resources, or crushing democracies and installing brutal far-right dictatorships). If you get an opportunity to become a murderer, you will graduate from, "not a worthless loser on welfare" all the way up to, "hero".

    -MAGA-

    • (Score: 2) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Tuesday June 08, @01:58AM (6 children)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Tuesday June 08, @01:58AM (#1142992)

      Tell us how you really feel.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @02:32AM (5 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @02:32AM (#1143003)

        I really feel like ... burrito?

        • (Score: 2) by kazzie on Tuesday June 08, @01:04PM

          by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 08, @01:04PM (#1143108)

          No, I feel like Chicken Tonight! [youtube.com]

        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday June 08, @02:13PM (3 children)

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 08, @02:13PM (#1143125) Journal

          Trump promised that if Hillary had won the 2016 election there would end up being a taco truck on every street corner.

          Where is my taco truck?

          --
          A Digital stupidity meter can't get pegged like a mechanical meter always does.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @04:15PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @04:15PM (#1143181)

            Yours is scheduled to be the first Tesla Taco Truck(tm) in space.

          • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Tuesday June 08, @04:33PM (1 child)

            by Freeman (732) on Tuesday June 08, @04:33PM (#1143189) Journal

            I don't know about you, but there are lots of Taco trucks around these parts.

            --
            "I said in my haste, All men are liars." Psalm 116:11
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Immerman on Tuesday June 08, @03:08PM

      by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday June 08, @03:08PM (#1143151)

      Actually it's likely to be a relatively low-pollution option: They're burning an oxygen-rich methane blend, which pretty much means the exhaust is pure water vapor and CO2, with none of the nasty shit produced burning more complex hydrocarbons like jet fuel or [shudder] bunker fuel in ships. They're also spending most the trip coasting above the atmosphere, meaning they don't need to waste massive amounts of extra fuel fighting air resistance the whole way.

      As I recall, several people have run the numbers for the eventual sub-orbital passenger flights SpaceX has been touting, and determined that the CO2 emissions per passenger-mile would actually be less than for an intercontinental airplane flight. Potentially *much* less.

      It seems unlikely that they'd be synthesizing their own methane in the quantities needed for frequent flights, at least early on, but if they did that the whole flight would actually become carbon-neutral.

  • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Tuesday June 08, @03:10AM (6 children)

    by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Tuesday June 08, @03:10AM (#1143016)

    on final approach these things would be lovely big hot targets for any ground or air launched anti-aircraft missiles. Hells, even some modern artillery and tanks could probably take them out too since the flight path and velocity would probably be more or less fixed and the rocket wouldn't be able to do much with regards to evasive maneuvers. I'll be the upgrades to the targeting software of all the counter systems will be in place looooooong before these supply rockets get anywhere near deployment.

    Only good use for this kind of tech would be to get specialized rescue equipment, relief and medical supplies into an area that just had a "instant" natural disaster like an earthquake, mine cave in, tsunami, etc. as fast as possible. If it was only used for that one purpose and always launched from the same location, preferably an isolated island somewhere, it would be less likely to start something bigger because someone thought it was a hostile ICBM launch at them.

    --
    "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @09:07AM (5 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @09:07AM (#1143068)

      They don't send C-17's directly to the front lines for exactly the same reason. Fast deployment to disaster areas is one obvious use case, as is fast reinforcement of an existing overseas military base, either your own or an ally, or to the rear lines of an army group. Maybe a large FOB if it has a secure landing zone. A Berlin Airlift situation is another potential use case.

      The big advantages are that it can be based from the continental US, it can arrive faster than any aircraft, and it flies high enough that it doesn't need to ask permission to cross intervening airspace. It can even overfly hostile territory as long as the drop zone itself is safe enough. Paradropping behind enemy lines is another interesting possibility. Even just the threat of getting hit with that should keep military strategists up at night.

      Anyone capable of detecting a Starship launch will be able to tell it apart from an ICBM. ICBMs come in as fast and steep as they can, which means dropping from a high orbit. They also have limited fuel so they want as high g-force a launch as possible. 10-12 g's isn't unheard of. Starship requires a flat entry profile which means staying as low as they can manage and is limited to less than 4 g's. Anything more would destroy the rocket. Starship is also a lot bigger than any ballistic missile, about 15 stories tall just for the upper stage. MIRV warheads are the size of large naval artillery shells. If your radar can't tell the difference then it needs glasses. ;)

      The entire point of this study is to work out exactly where, when, and how using Starship would be beneficial as well as when not to use it.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @09:57AM (4 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @09:57AM (#1143081)

        Just because Starship doesn’t look like an ICBM doesn’t mean it can’t be used as one. Any enemy would have to consider the possibility that an incoming Starship was a Trojan horse.

        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday June 08, @02:14PM (3 children)

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 08, @02:14PM (#1143126) Journal

          An incoming commercial aircraft could have a nuke on it.

          --
          A Digital stupidity meter can't get pegged like a mechanical meter always does.
          • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday June 08, @02:53PM (2 children)

            by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday June 08, @02:53PM (#1143146)

            Heck, an incoming cargo van could have a nuke in it.

            ICBMs are primarily useful for striking targets deep within enemy controlled territory - exactly the place where you *wouldn't* be dropping off cargo or supplies. Especially not via a huge, loud, glowing-hot rocket that's going to attract the attention of every enemy within a hundred miles.

            • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Tuesday June 08, @04:45PM

              by Freeman (732) on Tuesday June 08, @04:45PM (#1143193) Journal

              Again, it would be great for quick deployment, not to a hot combat zone. It would definitely not be used against a country/nation that is technologically advanced enough to shoot it down or who could mistake it for a nuclear missile and do something about it. Direct delivery of a hundred tons of equipment in a few hours from USA to the other side of the world is a killer tactic. The speed of deployment could be greatly increased with a fleet of Starships. We're talking a matter of hours for a "small" strike force (ones that could include tanks) to the other side of the world. How long does it take us to ship a single tank that far as of now? How many stops would be needed and/or mid-air refuels with current tech? In the event you can do a single shot delivery with a starship, you're vastly improving deployment time. Especially, if your other option is sending everything by boat.

              --
              "I said in my haste, All men are liars." Psalm 116:11
            • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday June 08, @04:50PM

              by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 08, @04:50PM (#1143196) Journal

              In a surprise attack, you could just ship your first nukes deep inside the enemy target. Assuming the enemy dosen't check for that at the borders, shipping ports, etc.

              I don't suppose they could check aircraft until they land.

              All of that said, I think anyone would be more concerned with a rapidly incoming starship landing.

              --
              A Digital stupidity meter can't get pegged like a mechanical meter always does.
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