The US Air Force is funding $48 million to study using the SpaceX Starship to move military cargo anywhere in the world in one hour.
There will need to be more spent to actually use SpaceX Starships for rapid deployments. SpaceX seems to be well on the way to making Starship a technical and economic success. SpaceX Starships will be capable of flying 6000-8000 miles in a single stage at up to Mach 15-25 with a payload of 100 tons.
The US Air force will leverage the fully reusable SpaceX Starship and Super Heavy capabilities. The SpaceX Starship can technically be used as a hypersonic bomber. It can also deploy millions of times more material to orbit.
Having the military as the first customer for anywhere in an hour cargo deployment will help accelerate us to a world of commercial cargo anywhere in an hour and then passenger travel anywhere in an hour.
There will need to be a solution to working with Russia and China about massive amounts of peaceful rocket traffic. There needs to be real-time visibility and assurance that there is no nuclear missile threat.
The Air Force budget of $156.3 billion is a 2.3% increase over FY21 enacted levels, and the Space Force budget of $17.4 billion is a 13.1% increase over FY21 enacted levels.
The FY 2022 Air Force Operation & Maintenance (O&M) budget includes a more than $2.3 billion dollar increase from the FY 2021 enacted funding. The growth from FY21 is largely driven by increases to Civilian Pay, Mission Support, Installation Support, and Facility Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization.
The Department of the Air Force Military Personnel (MILPERS) budget grows Total Force end-strength by an additional 3,425 Total Force Military personnel in FY 2022. The main growth driver is attributed to the retention of medical personnel and 1,966 growth to Space Force end-strength. The FY 2022 Air Force budget includes $929.8 million for Space Force guardians.
📢BREAKING: Dept. of @usairforce announces Rocket Cargo as the fourth Vanguard program as part of its transformational science and technology portfolio. @SpaceForceDoD was designated as the lead service for Rocket Cargo Vanguard. https://t.co/drp6Bn7OKy #AFResearchLab #AF2030 pic.twitter.com/L03OXodORr
— Air Force Research Lab – AFRL (@AFResearchLab) June 4, 2021
SOURCES – Scott Manley, Air Force
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
55 thoughts on “Air Force $48 Million SpaceX Starship Cargo Anywhere in an Hour Program”
Great post. I used to be checking continuously this blog and I am inspired!
Drones could help to further deliver cargo, and offer other means of support for the landed ship.
I speculate that little things like wind, atmospheric conditions, needing to alter your landing site at the last second (eg. Apollo 11), slight errors in your re-entry trajectory and other last minute things mean that you can't just rely on a pre-programmed burn.
I'm also looking at how much manoeuvring and adjustment the SpaceX landings seem to require. And SpaceX is landing on a prepared landing platform with associated guidance systems, not a rough clearing in Elephant country.
Then don't land the rocket. Eject pods with people in them. Also does not need to be covert if it is extremely fast.
Perhaps the new 'Mutally Assured Destruction' government-funded investment path. Nothing says 'we gotta have it' than another already having it.
SpaceX could build a military version of suborbital ship with more raptors for extra lift and multi layer Kevlar lying the fuel tanks. No need for a booster. Would have to have very robust legs to land on any reasonably flat landscape which it needs to have anyways for Mars and beyond.
I pulled alerts in that LCC, it was at Whiteman AFB in Missouri, either that or they copied it exactly (or, just as likely, sent the cover panels up to the National Park exhibit). It was amusing when you first saw it, for awhile. After four years of locking yourself in behind it for over 24 hours at a shot, twice a week, it got a bit stale.
30 minutes is pretty accurate. Keep in mind that for subs just off the coast, it was about 6 minutes, but they had other uncertainties that made it wise to maintain a triad (manned bombers, ICBMs, and submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
Requirements for landing and take-off support are likely much higher than would support this system.
Solid fuel rockets can have high reliability/repeatability. That's what you need, and good control over when they ignite.
Being able to throttle them is dispensable, so long as you can predict the thrust profile in advance. You just lite them off at the moment the computer picks, and when you arrive at the ground at zero relative velocity, you let go of them, so you don't need to be able to shut them off, too.
I do not use current standards, I use new (50 years old but revolutionary so still *new and unacceptable*) science discoveries. Neurosis is now observed in Primal as the successful repression of childhood trauma, and the current mental illnesses are mostly various ways this repression fails or is under out of control stress. Being successfully repressed is still neurotic, cwazy. Acting as the System requires is the problem, not the solution.
Per current psychiatric standards, you're not cwazy so long as the check clears. (I wish I were joking about that.) You can identify as a purple dinosaur and walk everywhere on your hands, and as long as it doesn't interfere with your earning an income you can pass on to a psychiatrist, you're not 'insane'.
Sociopathy, the usual 'leader' deviation from mental norms, doesn't even move the needle on that scale, if anything it makes paying psychiatrists easier.
Yes, missiles could be a problem. There would need to be conditions on- ground for the use of rocket delivery… and some live fire test will have to be made to see the effectiveness of surface to air missiles.
I was thinking about this some more after reading a Space dot Com article on the topic. If the goal was to sit down practically anywhere, there would need to be some kind of support services. One would presume the military would probably want to reuse the rocket, and not discard it. That would require the refueling of the craft, so it could return to a base in the rear. To make refueling possible, they would need to ship the fuel by ground or air, or develop a way to create the fuel at the newly created FOB.
However it happens, it will require an entirely new MOS for the Air Force… and other associated branches. New Jobs, new equipment, and all new systems and procedures.
At no point in my life have I ever wished so much that I was still in the military.
I can't see solid fuel rockets have the controllability you'd need.
On the other hand I can absolutely see any front line military personnel having the ability to handle the flight and landing.
I suppose a bag of foam is better than nothing.
Scott Manley has come out with a video analyzing this concept. It's pretty skeptical…as am I.
"in that future", in that future. We can hope for tomorrow what we do not have today.
ALL politicians are crazy.
If you're just landing, and not taking off again, you could come in at over the speed of sound, and hover-slam using solid fueled engines. They would have to have very reliable ignition and absolutely standardized thrust profiles, then you would just keep track of speed and altitude, and fire them at the exact instant necessary to come to a stop at zero altitude. This would, of course, require telling the guidance computer the exact mass of cargo loaded, so it could accurately calculate the resultant acceleration.
Since you couldn't shut them off instantly, you'd then let them go off on their own, to be destroyed by flight safety charges once they were clear of the immediate area.
I'd say it would be perfectly feasible to build a disposable HALO pod for cargo that would pull this sort of thing off reliably. With a decent solid propellant, a 100 ton total system mass with 15 tons of propellant, you might get to land maybe 70-75 tons of cargo this way. (An M1 Abrams battle tank, fully loaded and manned?) You'd only need a 12 second burn to come to a stop from Mach 1, assuming 4 Gs average thrust.
You can call that an imitation of a commercial rocket if you like, but it's not really anything like what you'd be doing in a commercial setting.
BTW, 4 gs for 12 seconds is perfectly acceptable for a healthy person with good support.
I'm saying it's possible if the military want to pay for the capacity. But being able to launch on very short notice would not be cheap.
Actually, the USAF has a huge fleet of aircraft that are literally all over the world all the time. Planes also have a lot of parts and they do unexpectedly need replacing now and then to keep them mission capable (these items are called MICAPs and get a LOT of attention). Since you can't preposition everything, everywhere, all the time, it would make sense to have a system that could deliver anything, anywhere, at any time.
The current system quite often involves sending another airplane with the needed parts. We even considered putting a warehouse full of such parts in Memphis, so we could make use of FedEx's overnight delivery, but while that covers a lot of places, it didn't cover nearly enough.
There are plenty of other reasons too, that also have nothing to do with delivering stuff to people under fire. For example, you are planning a mission and discover all of your gunship ammo is incendiary, when the target is in a highly flammable place. Finding and getting the right loadout there and in time can be a logistics officer's nightmare.
A successful military requires strategy, tactics, and logistics . . . that last one is just as important, if not more so, than the other two, despite not being as, hmm, cinematic. Yes, some years ago I spent time as both an ICBM launch officer, and as a logistics planning officer, for the USAF, so it gives me a little perspective on this.
"The Bozos can't even distinguish a 747 from a fighter jet 100% of the time."
Given the recent news, apparently a lot of military trained personnel have a very hard time in recognizing birds and planes too… 🙂
You are right about the supercooling, I stated it wrong. I corrected my post now.
And you are also right about the possibility of keeping on a launchpad a persistently fueled rocket (in an insulated underground silos?) with fuel recirculating through an external cooling system.
I am still not particularly convinced though: if you need a big infrastructure (insulated silos, cryocooling fuel facility running 24/7) your emergency response will be quite centralized and while it is true that you might store locally some critical components that you think might be useful on a 1h notice (radiation protective drugs like iodine pills, atropine vials to counteract the effect of some nerve gasses, blood/plasma bags, boron sand to absorb radiation from a cracked reactor core, a very small water sanitation plant), I am not sure that is really feasible for most of the other emergencies because I assume they tend to be not as standardized and you will still need to:
1) figure out what is the problem, 2) find something that helps, 3) procure that thing that might help 4) carry the material to your emergency deliver facility 5) Launch.
If steps 1-4 take days or weeks it is not that essential to complete step 5 in an hour
Correct, targeting is a pain. A blip is just a blip on the scope. You can shoot at it, but you don't know if it's an aircraft carrier or a cruise liner. If you have a synthetic aperture radar with the correct point of view, you can tell the difference. Otherwise Exxon Valdez and it's kin are what we refer to as 'missile sumps'.
The really hard combat intel problem is BDA – battle damage assessment. Did you really kill the ship or do you need to attack again? And that is one where you just about need eyeballs on the target for a period of time, as a ship can give a very good impression of a crippled hulk while being combat capable on very short notice.
Related, sad and amusing. Mon, June 7, 2021, 6:09 AM(Reuters) -"Bezos and fellow billionaire Elon Musk have been investing heavily on
their rocket startups, but Blue Origin and Musk's SpaceX have so far
only sent satellites for clients into orbit."
(Reporting by Akanksha Rana; Editing by Aditya Soni and Arun Koyyur)
And, ideally in that future, the leaders are not cwazy.
On your point 1, yes, nobody would want to try a liquid fueled rocket landing in territory disputed by an advanced adversary.
On point 2, we're talking a *modified* Starship. Obviously it does have the engine thrust, it would need improved reentry capability, and expend a lot more fuel on landing.
They chill their fuel to near the freezing point, but it's not quite supercooled, taken below the freezing point and metastable. Yes, it would be technically possible to maintain one of their ships in this status, but it would require special equipment, and fairly large scale, to keep the ship from accumulating many tons of frost, and maintain the temperature. The ship would have to be enclosed in dehumidified air, and the fuel be cycling through a cryocooler.
Landing a rocket is not a very covert operation
This system is good for humanitarian aid, at a disaster area, especially if it can land and take off without a pre-prapred landing platform. probably the the rocket will need to stay there until situation improves and it can be refueled.
I don't see how this would be any better at finding ships at sea than existing aircraft are.
I think this is a terrible idea. You don't want countries shooting down civilian rockets that are indistinguishable from military rockets. The Bozos can't even distinguish a 747 from a fighter jet 100% of the time.
There is a lot more money and utility in civilian use, than there will ever be for military use.
ICBMs are pointed by the thousands.
If you ask me, Elon has just gone deficit on existential threat.
The only reason that orbital overflight is considered "not violating airspace" is because of decades of precedent where nobody ever delivered bombs that way.
You start dropping kinetic RVs on countries and you'll throw that precedent away.
I fail to see how this "pod" would accomplish this feat without actually being some imitation of a "commercial rocket"?
Personally, I welcome the future where a nation can rain hellfire down on its enemies from orbit, and land 12 hundred troops anywhere on Earth in an hour.
I think this sort of thing is interesting for delivery of small special forces teams behind the front lines. Probably mostly for asymmetric warfare. I would be afraid that someone like China or Russia would suspect a nuke coming in and launch their arsenal.
On the bounce, apes! You wanna live forever?
SpaceX does not use solid fuel, and their fuel is supercooled* so they cannot simply maintain a fueled rocket in stand by for emergency 1h-delivery.
Since fueling a rocket takes several hours I think this is again another bogus idea, and this worries me.
I have nothing against SpaceX as a launch platform, but I have the impression that they are trying really hard to push the narrative that SpaceX and starship will be the solution to every problem, while most of the things they say are easily debunkable (like being able to be cheaper than airplanes). If you are desperately trying to position yourself in markets were you will never be able to deliver you either have a very poor business strategy or you are pushing a narrative to scam investors.
*it is not supercooled, it is just above freezing point as correctly stated by Brett Bellmore in his comment below
If the turnaround and the payload delivery really is as reliable as promised, this system would cut out most of the middle of the kill-chain anyway. A constant rain of smart missiles would fall on enemy tanks and infrastructure. It would be impossible for ships at sea to hide and survive.
"Rods from God" is the sort of thing you want to just deliver to and leave in orbit. You don't want every overflight by a Starship to be a suspected bombing run.
See my comment: Disposable delivery pod arriving by HALO drop.
If you had an actual vehicle arriving, reentry from orbit and hover-slam landing have amazingly low delta-v requirements, around 5-600m/s combined, worst case. (Most of the speed is bled off by the atmospheric reentry.) So a vehicle with performance comparable to the Starship, if delivered over the target fully fueled, (Fueled in orbit, or delivered sub-orbital using a booster.) land, and then still be able to do an intercontinental suborbital hop.
A key point is that they don't want the 'commercial rocket' landing in disputed territory. They want it to drop an "ejectable pod" that would do the actual landing.
Basically the commercial rocket would do an over-flight at high altitude, maybe even above the Karman line, (Where it wouldn't be subject to the sort of munitions rockets are very vulnerable to.) and the payload would do a HALO drop.
SpaceX's experience with hover-slamming Falcon boosters is clearly applicable here; The pod could come in with a terminal velocity well over the speed of sound, (Arrival comes as something of a surprise!) and rockets could bring it to a stop just as it reached ground.
The required delta-V to pull off a hover-slam from even the speed of sound is fairly modest, 350m/s, allowing a good mass ratio even using solid or hybrid rockets to accomplish it.
Now, a specialized vehicle could drop from orbit, (If refueled there.) hover-slam, and still have enough delta-V for a decent suborbital hop. And so could be used for emergency extractions as well as cargo drops. But that would put liquid fueled rockets in range of munitions, not a good combination. I suppose in theory you could have armor that you dropped on the way back up, and still not lose much capability.
I have to admit military applications make for some fun design challenges.
But how will it get refueled to take off again? It would have to be destroyed if landing in a non-secured area.
Cheap delivery of hypersonic kinetic bombs from orbit seems like it would be a higher priority. It pretty much dumps the Third Offset they wanted in the laps of the DOD. There really isn’t much need for ultra costly stealth fighters to take out enemy air defenses if you can send in some drones to trigger response and then hit the missile launchers and radars with kinetic bombs from orbit. Cargo Starship is pretty much ready to carry 100 tons of cheap kinetic impact RVs off the shelf. Unlike conventional bombers it can overfly the target area without violating airspace making a statement like sending a carrier. It can loiter indefinitely at no cost repeatedly getting in position to drop it’s bomb load on every orbit. It could defend itself against missile attack if provided with a laser – any missile would have to approach above the atmosphere where it’s quite vulnerable.
Nice camouflage on those hummers. Kind of violates rules of engagement to disguise them as Red Cross vehicles though.
There's also this:
"The British Royal Navy has apparently been testing using jet suits to board ships like a scene out of some scrapped Christopher Nolan film, according to a new video released by UK-based Gravity Industries. Business Insider writes that the tests were conducted over three days on the HMS Tamar, a Royal Navy Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol ship.
Royal Marines used Gravity Industries’ Jet Suit to conduct a “visit, board, search, and seizure” operation or VBSS. Basically a marine launched from a fast boat tailing the HMS Tamar, flew through the air like a slightly askew Iron Man, and landed on the larger ship, dropping a rope below so their fast boat buddies could climb up and “visit” the simulated enemy vessel."
We already have ICBMs.
Same as many of America's potential foes.
These rockets look more like fast couriers and transports of troops to controlled locations than attack ships.
Except for conventional weapon delivery. They could indeed haul bombs or orbital rods, meant to land on an target later.
Do you want a nuke ? We offer a free delivery in 1h…
The past is prologue. Too bad we probably won't get the jetpacks:
"Marine general Wallace Greene, Jr., publicly proposed a ballistic transport system when Pres. John F. Kennedy nominated him to lead the Marine Corps in October 1963."
"In theory, 1,200 Marines would board the 20-story rocket and blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base or Cape Canaveral. They’d soar 120 miles into space, and land at their destinations in Asia, Africa or Europe within an hour."
China probably claims this concept as being their territory since ancient times. It looks like a knockoff of SS
Probably not. Just bad clip art.
I like the "Not-Starship" in the drawing.
As if there were many vertical landing rockets of that size being developed right now.
Comments are closed.