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posted by Fnord666 on Monday June 07, @11:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the speedy-delivery dept.

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.

The US Military is Starting to Get Really Interested in Starship

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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...

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  • (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) 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?

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      • (Score: 2) by coolgopher on Tuesday June 08, @01:17AM

        by coolgopher (1157) Subscriber Badge 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.

        Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
      • (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) []

    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.

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    • (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) 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.