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Pentagon getting serious of hauling cargo with Starship

Capitalism in space: In the budget proposal submitted by the Biden administration the Pentagon included a request for $47.9 million to help develop the infrastructure it will need to use SpaceX’s Starship rocket as a method for transporting cargo point-to-point on Earth.

“The Department of the Air Force seeks to leverage the current multi-billion dollar commercial investment to develop the largest rockets ever, and with full reusability to develop and test the capability to leverage a commercial rocket to deliver AF cargo anywhere on the Earth in less than one hour, with a 100-ton capacity,” the document states.

Although this does not refer to Starship by name, this is the only vehicle under development in the world with this kind of capability. The Air Force does not intend to invest directly into the vehicle’s development, the document says. However, it proposes to fund science and technology needed to interface with the Starship vehicle so that the Air Force might leverage its capabilities.

Clearly, some Air Force officials are intrigued by the possibility of launching 100 tons of cargo from the United States and having the ability to land it anywhere in the world about an hour later.

The proposal is calling for a fourfold increase in funding for this work, as the Air Force is already spending slightly less than $10 million this year on this work.

The bottom line is that it appears SpaceX already has at least one real customer for its giant rocket. And if the military is that interested now, it likely means many more private customers are beginning to line up.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • V-Man

    So basically it’s Phil Bono’s Ithacus project only 55 years later?

  • 1201AlarmSameType

    Basically you could transport an A1 Abrams tank if you could lock the barrel at a high enough angle to be inside 9 meters. During Desert Storm they had to be shipped by slow boat as no aircraft can transport them.

  • Matt in AZ

    1201AlarmSameType – the C-5 Galaxy can carry 2 M-1 tanks, and the C-17 can carry only 1, but to more locations. I can understand using boats for shipping greater numbers, of course. But man, loading/unloading an M-1 from a Starship under Earth gravity – no thanks!

  • David K

    For the previous replies, I don’t think this is about tanks.
    More like a ranger sniper team, a combat medic, a bunch of drones, and a small nuclear reactor (kilo power) to reinforce a remote base in an emergency.

  • NavyNuke

    Extreme HALO for operators and cargo.

  • Jeff Wright


    You are spot on…and thanks to that delay… I am livid when I should be happy.

    This is what Medaris wanted —for the ABMA….that threatened the USAF airlift-indeed their existence.
    So ABMA died. I think Saturn I might have been modifed for legs, but Bono wanted something larger.

    If I were Musk-I’d give the Air Farce a discount…but only if their top man lays flowers atop Medaris’ grave on national TV and says Martin Landau’s line from METEOR: “We were very wrong” after giving the Warthog to the Army.

    If they refuse, then Washington should FORCE them to do the same mission with SLS paying all costs for it.

    Only then will my hatred of the Blue Suits end…they hurt Marshall….and I want them to eat of the dish best served cold….

  • pzatchok

    First off i want to see if the seconds stage cargo rocket can take off and reach orbit empty other wise its just a one way trip.
    It would be an easy target on all battlefields.

    Second off I want to see the final cost to launch 100 tons. Shipping costs like this will add a lot to the final cost of ammo and MRE’s for the front line. Think of the costs for returning anything you ship.

    As s bonus thought.
    Could the second stage cone back into the atmosphere down to around 60 thousand feet and then fire itself back into orbit without landing? That is one way to make a HALO with 50 to 100 men. And it would pose little to no risk to the ship/

  • Jeff Wright

    It really needs to be its own vehicle. Over at “No Shortage of dreams is a design of an airplane that comes out of a big lifting body. For armor, use one of those Biconic Mars designs in place of or on a rump starship…or a jet mini-buran for troops…SUSTAIN style like Bedard wanted…HOT EAGLE style.

  • NavyNuke


    If you tell SOCOM they can reliably free fall from 80k, 100k or even 200k for HALO or HAHO jumps and they will figure a way to use that capability. That could give some deep clandestine insertion capacity from outside borders.

  • Jeff Wright

    Vehicles too…but turrets have to be held on by more than gravity. Each pre-fab load-out is a different package: an honest to goodness drop-ship…to a stack of PICA ablative coated Daisy Cutters on a refueled Starship that moves such that the multi-bombs hit one after another at orbital speed-but straight down if possible for quake triggering.

  • pzatchok

    I just thought of a good way to get the jumpers out of the space craft.

    If you remember the one way they thought of getting the astronauts out of the Shuttle was a long bent tube sticking out of a door.
    Once the space craft slows down enough, and goes vertical, they can spin the ship just enough to help toss the jumpers out of and away from the craft on one or two of those bent poles.

    The spaceship can then either boost back to space or if that is not possible maybe boost back enough to reach a barge or aircraft carrier waiting on its orbital path.

    I would like to see the next generation second stage actually have its engines outside the central body and the cargo in the center between them. That way loading and unloading can be done without cranes. Just walk down a ramp in between the engines.
    Fuel above the cargo area.

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