Private aerospace companies Rocket Lab and Sierra Space are joining the US Air Force’s Rocket Cargo project, which aims to ultra-fast transportation of cargo around the world, reports Gizmodo.
Rocket Lab announced signing an agreement with the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), according to which the small Electron launch vehicle and the future Neutron medium launch vehicle can deliver cargo to various places on Earth. Rocket Lab is also considering its Photon rocket as a platform for in-orbit cargo depots and as a delivery vehicle.
“Point-to-point space transportation offers a new ability to move equipment quickly around the world in hours, enabling a faster response to global emergencies and natural disasters,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck.
Rocket Lab’s 18-meter Electron rocket has already completed 29 flights. A larger 13-ton Neutron rocket is expected to launch into space in 2024. Meanwhile, the Photon rocket recently launched NASA’s CAPSTONE mission to the Moon.
Last year, the US Air Force announced rocket transport project as a way to deliver materials and possibly personnel around the world in a few hours using space launch vehicles. The Air Force wants to do this with commercial missiles, having already signed a similar agreement earlier this year with SpaceX worth $102 million, and at the end of last year — with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
Rocket Lab is the latest company to sign on for a rocket delivery project with Sierra Space. The Nevada-based private space company also announced an agreement with the US Air Force on Thursday about using its Dream Chaser space plane for point-to-point hypersonic transportation. This aircraft is still under development.
The idea of using space launch vehicles to carry cargo for the US military has been around for some time. However, recent developments in the field of commercial spaceflight provided the impetus necessary to launch the project.