The US Department of Defense (DoD) has reached out to American spacecraft manufacturer SpaceX about potentially taking over its Starship rocket to support military missions.
The Pentagon wants to make the two-stage super heavy lift launch vehicle a “government-owned, government-operated” asset instead of contracting the company every time the rocket is needed, according to Aviation Week.
Starship will reportedly be used on “sensitive and potentially dangerous” military operations.
“We have had conversations. And it really came down to specific missions, where it’s a very specific and, sometimes, elevated risk, or maybe a dangerous use case for the DoD where they’re asking themselves: ‘Do we need to own it as a particular asset … SpaceX, can you accommodate that?’” SpaceX senior official Gary Henry explained.
Henry said the company has yet to respond to the request because it is still “exploring all kinds of options.”
As early as 2020, the Pentagon had already been thinking of using the giant reusable rocket for transporting military cargo and personnel around the world.
The launch vehicle reportedly has the same payload capacity as the C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft.
However, the difference is that the SpaceX asset can move payloads anywhere on the globe “in less than an hour.”
“Think about that speed associated with the movement of transportation of cargo and people,” former US Transportation Command head Gen. Stephen Lyons said in 2020.
“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 ‘21, to be conducting a proof of principle.”
For US military space architect Col. Eric Felt, there are indeed certain concepts of operation that could be relevant for a “government-owned, government operated” space asset.