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DOD Envisions Transporation of Cargo, Military Personnel Using Commercial Rockets

Rocket Cargo effort

DOD Envisions Transporation of Cargo, Military Personnel Using Commercial Rockets

The Department of Defense wants to someday use commercial rockets to rapidly transport cargo as well as troops from point to point around the world. Experts are optimistic that the concept is theoretically feasible, although the military will face various challenges before such a plan is realized.

In June, the Air Force Research Laboratory designated the new Rocket Cargo initiative as a Vanguard program. The designation makes the effort a top science and technology priority.

In a description of the program, the AFRL noted that logistics speed is at the center of military supremacy and that the DOD must promptly engage with any commercial company that develops a new capability to move materiel faster, National Defense Magazine reported.

Speaking to reporters, AFRL Commander Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle said the laboratory aims to team up with commercial space companies to enable the delivery of up to 100 tons of supplies and equipment anywhere around the world “on tactical timelines.”

The U.S. Transportation Command and the U.S. Space Force are supporting the laboratory in its effort to assess a new technology’s potential, including improvements in delivery cost and speed as compared to air cargo operations. If the envisioned technology proves viable and affordable, the effort would be transitioned to a program of record.

According to Greg Spanjers, program manager of the Rocket Cargo effort, the concept is not new.

Spanjers said the idea did not previously make sense, despite it being “interesting” and “intriguing.” However, the concept has resurfaced in part because of the emergence of high capability but budget-friendly commercial rockets, he explained.

For Spanjers, technology has caught up with the concept.

If the commercial space industry is able to develop a faster human transport mechanism, the DOD would be interested in exploring the options, said Spanjers, who previously served as a speaker at a Potomac Officers Club event.

Instead of buying its own rockets, the military plans to procure such a capability as a service from space companies. 

Currently, the AFRL is planning to select several companies for the procurement of launch services and capabilities that advance other aspects of the logistics cycle, including a loadmaster load and unload capability, rapid launch clearance, schedulers and environment survivability.

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Tags: AFRL Air Force Research Laboratory commercial industry Department of Defense DoD Greg Spanjers Heather Pringle National Defense Magazine Rocket Cargo space companies Speaker News US Space Force US Transportation Command USSF USTRANSCOM Vanguard