Rocket Lab and Sierra Space sign military rocket cargo project TechCrunch

Rocket Lab and Sierra Space have signed separate agreements with the US Department of Defense (DOD) to explore how their respective flight systems – Rocket Lab’s Electron and Neutron rockets, Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser space plane – could be used for ultra-fast cargo delivery on Earth.

The agreements are known as Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs), a way to facilitate R&D work between government and non-government entities like startups and private companies. These specific CRADAs fall under the US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), an agency under the DOD.

As part of its agreement, Sierra Space and the military will jointly explore the use of its Dream Chaser aircraft for hypersonic space transportation for ground cargo and personnel delivery. Under Rocket Lab’s deal, it will work with the military to investigate the use of Electron and Neutron launchers, also for cargo delivery.

Although Electron has successfully reached orbit several times, Neutron and Dream Chaser are still under development.

“Point-to-point space transportation provides a new capability to rapidly move equipment around the world in hours, enabling faster response to global emergencies and natural disasters,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a statement. a statement. “We are thrilled to collaborate with USTRANSCOM on this innovative, cutting-edge research program that may ultimately change the way the Department of Defense views logistics response options.”

The two CRADAs are not limited to transport vehicles. The military is also interested in how cargo pods — specifically Sierra Space’s Shooting Star cargo pod and Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft — can also be used to enable lightning-fast logistics.

Both deals are part of the Air Force’s Rocket Cargo project, launched in June last year, to explore how technology from the space industry can be used to enable fast and cheap deliveries for the military. This is just the latest example of the government engaging private industry as a research partner, rather than developing the technology itself. Ultimately, the government wants to use this project and others like it to “be the first customer to procure new commercial capacity through service leases.”

As the Air Force acknowledges in a statement on the new Vanguard program, “cargo delivery via rocket transport is not a new concept.” However, he goes on to state that steep decreases in launch cost, combined with higher payload capacity, have made rockets a more attractive prospect for ground delivery.

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