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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: 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.

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  • (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.