Sierra Space's Dream Chaser to explore point-to-point cargo delivery for US military
Commercial space company Sierra Space, which is developing the shuttle-shaped Dream Chaser spacecraft for transportation solutions, has signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) transportation command for point-to-point global terrestrial delivery of military materiel and personnel.
Both organizations will develop solutions using the Dream Chaser spaceplanes, Shooting Star cargo modules, and on-orbit infrastructure that provides unique capabilities for precise, cost-effective, and timely global delivery of Department of Defense logistics and personnel through space.
"Today’s agreement with the United States Transportation Command gives Sierra Space the unique opportunity to provide hypersonic point-to-point solutions to our government customers...We plan to leverage these technologies to reach anywhere on the globe within three hours," Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice said in a statement.
An attractive alternative to air, land, and surface modes
The parties will explore space transportation as an alternative and complement to traditional air, land, and surface modes for the Department of Defense's global supply chains.
The agreement will develop concepts and investigate emerging industry capabilities for immediate employment. Agile transportation options to project and sustain combat forces in "complex and contested environments in addition to non-combat activities such as humanitarian relief operations and medical missions" will be looked into.
A space transportation capability to put essential cargo quickly on target at considerable distances makes it a very attractive alternative.
In recent months, the U.S. military signed several agreements for future point-to-point transportation needs, reported Space.com. These include a CRADA (Cooperative Research & Development Agreement) with Rocket Lab to use its Electron Booster and a $102 million contract with SpaceX (through the U.S. Air Force) for rocket deliveries of military cargo and humanitarian equipment.
According to USTRANSCOM (U.S. Transportation Command), Sierra Space will create the capacity to launch multiple rockets into space, pre-position supplies in orbit, and deliver them through "multiple precision delivery platforms to sites around the globe, including on traditional runways," The Defense Post said.
The Dream Chaser could be shipping through space in 10 years
The USTRANSCOM expects the capacity to be ready by the next decade.
"We must continue to provide our leaders options below the threshold of war and prevent logistics from being the limiting factor on the battlefield," deputy commander at USTRANSCOM, Lt. Gen. John P. Sullivan, told The Defense Post.
"We are encouraged by the advancements being made by the space transportation industry as an emerging option," he said.
According to a U.S. Air Force (USAF) release from October 2020, the U.S. military has been talking about high-speed space deliveries "to quickly move critical logistics during time-sensitive contingencies or to deliver humanitarian assistance."
"The potential of space transportation to deliver Defense Department cargo anywhere in the world in an hour provides an additional option to complement USTRANSCOM's strategic sealift and airlift capabilities," stated U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Nirav Lad, principal investigator for Space Transportation Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, USTRANSCOM’s Strategic Plans, Policy, and Logistics Directorate, in the release.
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