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It takes a C-17 cargo aircraft 12 hours to make the trip from California to Okinawa, Japan; a rocket could do it in 30 minutes, according to popularmechanics.com. The US Air Force is expanding an experimental program that could one day see the Space Force use reusable rockets to move material and equipment across the planet.
As the Pentagon pivots to the Pacific, rocket resupply would be useful in the vast expanses of that region. So the US is looking for rocket logistics delivery solutions. The Air Force wants to test whether it’s possible to move hundreds of tons of military equipment to forward operating locations and bases around the world using reusable rockets instead of mobility aircraft.
The “Rocket Cargo” experiment is held under the Air Force’s Vanguard program, which examines how new technologies and commercial capabilities can be applied to its missions. The service is asking lawmakers for $47.9 million in its 2022 budget request to develop the technology and test “whether it can deliver cargo anywhere on the Earth in less than one hour,” according to budget documents.
The private sector has been working on the technology to make rocket resupply feasible for years, with SpaceX arguably at the forefront.
The Rocket Cargo program will study how the military can safely land a rocket “near personnel and structures, engineer a rocket cargo bay and logistics for rapid loading and unloading, and air-drop cargo from the rocket after reentry in order to service locations where a rocket or aircraft cannot possibly land,” the Air Force said in a release. Finding ways to measure high-altitude weather is a key aspect of the launch.
Rocket resupply potentially could be used for disaster relief and humanitarian or nontraditional missions in remote areas, easing the burden on TRANSCOM and AMC units, officials were cited by military.com.