Imagine an American embassy attacked in a foreign country. She is apparently cut off from all help and assistance. The outnumbered Marine guards fight off hordes of armed assailants trying to storm the embassy. Suddenly, from the sky above comes a deep rumble that shakes the Earth. Looking up, the Marines and the armed crowd see 6 huge rockets descending from the sky and landing upright. Like something out of a sci-fi movie, a ramp descends and several hundred Marines race down the ramp. That’s what Elon Musk’s companies hope to achieve.
As early as the 1950s, many scientists investigated the possibility of using rockets to transport troops. Specifically, an attempt named Project Ithacus, where 1,200 Marines would soar into space and reach their destination in less than an hour – sounds quite familiar to the current project. On January 28, SpaceX won a contract worth $102 million to transport military supplies and aid around the world using a rocket, so we’re definitely on the right track. to develop this technology.
Starlink and the US military
Starlink, a satellite internet service operated by its own SpaceX, had been deployed to Ukraine following an informal request from the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov. In a tweet, he asked Musk to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations for internet access.
“@elonmusk, while you are trying to colonize Mars, Russia is trying to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets are successfully landing from space, Russian rockets are attacking Ukrainian civilians! We ask that you provide the Ukraine from Starlink stations and to invite sane Russians to stand up,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.
Within days, Elon said Starlink was activated in Ukraine and terminals were on their way. Fedorov thanked Musk as the terminals arrived on March 1, with Musk responding to the deputy prime minister with a “You’re welcome” tweet.
When Russian forces blocked European satellite communications (SATCOM) terminals early in the war, Musk’s SpaceX came not only for internet communications, but also as Ukraine’s GIS artillery, helping them ultimately to restore SATCOM services. This allowed Ukrainian forces to communicate across enemy lines and transmit high-speed data. During this time, the Russians were unable to locate the targets due to the lack of electronic signatures.
Experts also said drones could use Starlink. It has previously been used with Ukraine’s elite drone unit, the Aerorozvidka, where Starlink monitors and coordinates drones. This allows the elite unit to attack Russian ground forces and tank positions. In a high pressure situation without an internet connection, Starlink can prove to be a valuable asset when drones need to use the internet for positioning and target acquisition.
“We are using Starlink equipment and connecting the drone team to our artillery team,” an Aerorozvidka officer told The Times. “If we use a thermal vision drone at night, the drone has to connect via Starlink to the artillery guy and create target acquisition,” he added.
Access to Starlink by the Ukrainian population has also helped Ukraine publish information online in real time, allowing it to be used in areas where the Internet has been censored or restricted.
Many people don’t know that SpaceX, which operates Starlink, has a strong military background. SpaceX, in 2004, acquired a stake in Surrey Satellite Technology, currently owned by Airbus Defense and Space. Later, their share would be sold back to EADS Astrium in 2008. Then, in 2005, Space X would get a US Air Force contract, with the USAF being able to purchase $100 million worth of launches from the company. NASA would follow suit with an IDIQ contract for SpaceX worth $1 billion.
In 2012, the company participated in the US Department of Defense tender. As a result, the USAF awarded SpaceX two EELV-class missions, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) and Space Test Program 2 (STP-2). Deep Space Climate Observatory was introduced on a Falcon 9 rocket launcher in 2015. Additionally, Space Test Program 2 was found on a Falcon Heavy on June 25, 2019.
The Falcon 9 goes supersonic pic.twitter.com/Fla67xwxf3
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 26, 2022
It was no surprise to many that Starlink and SpaceX would eventually move into the defense industry, as they historically had ties to the military since its inception. In 2016, the USAF awarded SpaceX the launch of the 2nd GPS 3 satellite for $82.7 million, and the 3rd launch of the GPS 3 as recent as June 2020, among several of its contracts.
SpaceX Current Projects
With approximately 2,400 mass-produced satellites in low Earth orbit, the military capabilities for SpaceX developments are endless. After successful bids and ongoing partnership projects, the Space Development Agency awarded SpaceX an initial $150 million for the company to develop a luxury military version of the Starlink satellite bus, eventually forming the follow-up of the Space Force’s National Defense Space Architecture (SDA). This has the potential to build missile tracking satellites for the Pentagon, where SpaceX has also acquired a contract for four satellites at its Redmond assembly plant.
These four satellites are equipped with wide-angle infrared missile tracking sensors, making it increasingly possible to track and intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles. Unfortunately, much of the program is classified, which says a lot about its military applications if the military doesn’t want the average person to know what they can do.
From communications, real-time position tracking and missile tracking, to positioning assistance for drones and possibly other weapons, Starlink can be further developed for enhanced military use if they want to move in that direction.
In 2020, it was reported that the US military is cooperating with Elon Musk to develop a 7,500mph rocket that can blast 80 tons of cargo into space and deliver that cargo anywhere in the world – in less than an hour. hour. Yes, it looks like it was straight out of a “Star Wars” or sci-fi movie as the predecessors to their light-speed journey, but this (albeit much slower) technology is being elaboration.
Former U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) Chief General Stephen Lyons said in 2020 that the project was moving “very, very quickly in this area” and that he was very excited to work with it. SpaceX at that time. They are targeting delivery of rockets from Cape Canaveral to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, which would be completed in just under an hour, with a travel distance of over 7,000 miles in less than an hour. The same route would take a C-17 Globemaster for over 15 hours with a top speed of 590 mph.
However, the feasibility and cost of the project continue to be an obvious concern for military analysts. For example, with C-17s costing $218 million apiece, how much would a SpaceX rocket cost and how much would it cost the American taxpayer each time it was operated?
USTRANSCOM said the technology would be a boon to transporting US forces and equipment in the future if deemed possible. Additionally, they envisioned that the technology would be used in “critical logistics during urgent emergencies” and “provide humanitarian aid.”
On the more optimistic side of things, USTRANSCOM hopes to use the technology as a “quick reaction force” instead of the primary weapons delivery system. They noted that it could be used as a transport vehicle to quickly deploy a unit where U.S. interests are threatened, such as during the Benghazi attacks in 2012. If USTRANSCOM can prove this is possible, it could deter future attacks on US personnel, officials, and infrastructure.
But even if they could prove that it is hypothetically possible, where would the ship land at the specified destination? How would he leave after completing his mission? Such maneuvers have yet to be perfected, and we’re unlikely to see these rocket technologies anytime soon, but the project looks promising.
This all sounds like science fiction at the moment, and we admit it sounds like something impossible. But let’s remember that smartphones were fiction just a hundred years ago. As technology advances, these once science fiction ideas can become a reality with many more years of research and development.