The U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) has partnered with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and two Texas-based companies to develop the potential use of rockets to rapidly deliver cargo around the world.
The aim is to use commercial space rockets, including SpaceX’s Starship, to move cargo 10 times faster, U.S. Army Gen. Stephen R. Lyons, commander of USTRANSCOM, said during the National Defense Transportation Association’s fall meeting on Oct. 7.
“Think about moving the equivalent of a C-17 payload anywhere on the globe in less than an hour,” Lyons said, according to a release. “Think about that speed associated with the movement of transportation of cargo and people.”
A Boeing C-17 has a maximum payload capacity of 170,900 pounds and top speeds of 518 miles per hour, according to the U.S. Air Force website.
“There is a lot of potential here and I’m really excited about the team that’s working with SpaceX on an opportunity, even perhaps as early as 2021, to be conducting a proof of principle,” Lyons said.
USTRANSCOM has signed a no-cost cooperative research and development agreement, known as CRADA, with SpaceX and San Antonio-based Exploration Architecture Corp. (XArc) and Houston-based engineering firm KBR.
Initially, the CRADA will study using space rockets to deliver cargo for time-sensitive military incidents or humanitarian assistance, Lyons said.
SpaceX is based in Boca Chica, Texas, along the Gulf of Mexico about 25 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The SpaceX South Texas launch site is a private rocket production facility, test site and spaceport.
XArc and KBR will research the type of rocket landing areas that could be feasible for the program, including rugged sites with no infrastructure, remote sites with limited support and mature sites that have established capabilities.
More articles by Noi Mahoney