There are new cargo routes, and then there are the out-of-this-world ideas. A recent proposal being considered by the U.S. Air Force definitely fits in the latter category.
“Think about this: 30 minutes, 150 metric tonnes, less than the cost of a C-5 [military aircraft],” said Gen. Carlton Everhart, the Air Force’s mobility commander, who is referring to the potential space transportation cargo service that could offer an around-the-world-in-30-minutes cargo route.
The project could be modeled on Elon Musk’s space exploration endeavor, SpaceX Missions, in which Musk’s spacecraft, such as the Dragon, carries cargo to the International Space Station under NASA’s commercial agreements with SpaceX. The Air Force is said to be in talks with SpaceX on details.
Everhart said the Air Force may propose major investments in space cargo in the next Program Objective Memorandum (POM).
In addition to the proposed service, the initiative could include pre-positioning equipment and supplies in orbit, to be dropped down to Earth when needed. The kind of cargo that will be eligible is still up for discussion; right now, it could be “anything,” the Air Force noted.
While the project is still in initial stages, it is possible that, within the next 10 years, U.S. troops could be using supplies that were transported to them through space, if Gen. Everhart’s urgency is any indication.
“I would like to introduce that, or at least start getting the initial resources done in the next POM cycle… I’d like to get it in 2020. Honestly 2022 is too late,” he said. “I want it now. I’ve got to get these concepts now … This is the avenue for the future. If I can get it introduced and start the concepts right now, I’ll do it with my own money, I’m going to do it.”
Better start the countdown.