DOD Seeks Cost Estimates For Military Space Cargo Missions

Credit: U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory

U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) has asked launch companies and academics to provide cost estimates for delivering military cargo via space over the next 20 years. 

A special notice published on Aug. 19 by TRANSCOM adds another step in an already lengthy process of considering how the military can use space launch companies in ways similar to the existing Civil Reserve Air Fleet. 

The notice says TRANSCOM plans to establish Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with various industry and academic officials to produce co-funded studies on the topic. 

“These studies will produce findings on technical and operational maturity and feasibility for use, economics, and risks/benefits of the inclusion of space transportation capabilities in support of worldwide DoD materiel distribution needs,” TRANSCOM says. 

The agreements follow the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) decision earlier this year to establish a Vanguard program called Rocket Cargo, which aims to transition space launch for military cargo missions from a technology demonstration to a program of record.

As AFRL moves forward with Rocket Cargo, TRANSCOM wants industry and academia to help analyze the feasibility of a wide range of spacelift options, including aircraft-, horizontal- and vertical-launch modes, according to the special notice. 

The analyses should include projections of a realistic timelines from receiving a demand signal to delivering the item to a point of need, the notice says. 

TRANSCOM also is interested in analyzing the resilience of space transportation against a variety of threats, including weather and enemy attacks, as well the environmental impact of space transportation for serving military mobility missions. 

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.