Hypersonic freighter closer to reality! US military signs pact to develop ‘lightning lightning’ space transportation system

Sierra Space, a commercial space company, announced Sept. 8 that it has signed an agreement with United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) to build hypersonic space transportation systems for military cargo and personnel.

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Sierra Space and the U.S. Transportation Command will collaborate to design concepts for using the company’s Dream Chaser space plane and Shooting Star cargo modules for “timely global delivery of Department of Defense logistics and personnel.” Defense”.

The OK signed between the two organizations is called Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs), a framework to facilitate R&D work between government and non-government groups such as startups and commercial companies.

The first Dream Chaser, which is currently under construction in Louisville, Colorado, is believed to launch in 2023 and begin operating a series of NASA cargo resupply flights to the International Space Station.

Shooting Star is an expendable loading and docking module attched to the dream hunter. With this technology, the Department of Defense can send military aid anywhere in the world in a fraction of the time it would take with conventional transportation.

Rendering of Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser space plane. Credit: Espace Sierra

USTRANSCOM and the US Air Force have evaluated space vehicles as an alternative to conventional methods of air, ground and surface transportation.

Nevertheless, the latest deal allows the company to join a group of private space operators, including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Rocket Lab. These companies plan to use rockets and spacecraft to transport military personnel and supplies around the world.

Sierra Space stated that “the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with US Transcom outlines plans to identify the current capabilities and maturity of Sierra Space’s space transportation methods, as well as the risks, benefits and further research and development needed as a result.”

Tom Vice, CEO of Sierra Space, said previously suggested Dream Chaser’s potential military uses. In the latest statement, Vice said Sierra Space has a particular focus on the national security sector.

The company is focused on providing the Department of Defense with unique, ultra-high speed, high payload solutions for logistics and personnel movement. They also plan to use the same technologies to travel the world in three hours.

A point-to-point freight delivery system

Vice said, “Today’s agreement with United States Transportation Command provides Sierra Space with the unique opportunity to provide hypersonic point-to-point solutions to our government customers.

Sierra Space will develop the capability to launch multiple rockets into space, preposition cargo into orbit, and transport it via “multiple precision delivery platforms to sites around the world, including traditional runways,” according to USTRANSCOM.

Rocket Lab USA, a major player in launch services and space systems, also recently announcement the signing of an agreement with the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) to examine the possibility of using the company’s Neutron and Electron launchers to deliver goods worldwide.

Rocket Lab will also explore using the Photon spacecraft to build in-orbit cargo depots and provide re-entry capability under the terms of the agreement. While Electron has successfully orbited several times, Neutron and Dream Chaser are still in their development phase.

“Point-to-point space transportation provides a new capability to rapidly move equipment around the world in hours, enabling faster response to global emergencies and natural disasters,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a statement. a statement.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with USTRANSCOM on this innovative, cutting-edge research program that could ultimately change the way the Department of Defense looks at logistics response options,” he added.

The U.S. military is curious how Cargo Pods, Sierra Space’s Shooting Star cargo module, and Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft can be harnessed to aid in ultra-high-speed logistics.

ROCKET CARGO FOR AGILE GLOBAL LOGISTICS – Air Force Research Laboratory
ROCKET CARGO FOR AGILE GLOBAL LOGISTICS – Air Force Research Laboratory

With this in mind, similar contracts have also been signed with Virgin Orbit National Systems, SpaceX and Blue Origin. For the project, Virgin Orbit National Systems is developing a rocket that is launched from an aircraft and requires less sophisticated infrastructure than vertical takeoff systems.

USTRANSCOM estimates that the capability will be operational within the next decade. “We must continue to provide our leaders with options below the threshold of war and prevent logistics from being the limiting factor on the battlefield,” said USTRANSCOM Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. John P Sullivan.

Overall, the latest decision supports U.S. aspirations to be able to deliver personnel and supplies to space on tight timelines.

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