Is the US creating the first military space station? Pentagon moves to design a mini ‘orbital outpost’ for government experiments
- The Department of Defense announced last year it wants to build a space station
- The group has awarded the contract to aerospace firm Sierra Nevada Corp
- The firm will transform its Shooting Star cargo ship into an orbital outpost
- It is set for its first demonstration for 2021 and will resupply the ISS
The US Pentagon in designing a mini space station that will be used for research and development, training and operational missions.
The Department of Defense has awarded a contract to the Sierra Nevada Corporation, allowing the aerospace firm to transform its Shooting Star transport vehicle into an orbital outpost.
Shooting Star is a 16-foot cargo craft designed to hold 10,000 pounds and was originally developed for NASA resupply mission to the International Space Station.
The firm and the Pentagon group is eye 2021 for when the craft will take flight for its first demonstration mission to the International Space Station.
However, experts have raised concerns that combined with the US Space Force this space station could mean ‘Starship Troopers’ are on the horizon.
The US Pentagon in designing a mini space station that will be used for research and development, training and operational missions
The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is an aerospace and national security contractor focused on aircraft modification and integration.
And it was chosen by the Pentagon to design a small space station set for low Earth orbit.
SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen said: ‘We’re excited by the multi-mission nature of Shooting Star.’
‘It was originally developed for NASA resupply missions to the International Space Station, and since then we keep identifying new capabilities and solutions it offers to a wide variety of customers.’
The Department of Defense has awarded a contract to the Sierra Nevada Corporation, allowing the aerospace firm to transform its Shooting Star transport vehicle into an orbital outpost
‘The possible applications for Shooting Star are really endless.’
The Shooting Star is much smaller compared to NASA’s International Space Station, but will mainly be used for to ‘space assembly, microgravity, experimentation, logistics, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation,’ according to SNC.
However, the outpost can hold up to two people, allowing the Pentagon to send a crew to conduct experiments in orbit.
The firm is set to redesign the Shooting Star to include guidance, navigation and control for sustained free-flight operations.
The craft will keep its two solar panel arrays that can generate six kilowatts of onboard power and is currently designed to move autonomously using six thrusters.
Former NASA space shuttle commander and retired USAF pilot Steve Lindsey said: ‘The current Shooting Star is already designed with significant capabilities for an orbital outpost and by adding only a few components we are able to meet Department of Defense needs.’
‘We are proud to offer our transport vehicle to DoD as a free-flying destination for experimentation and testing, expanding beyond its current payload service capabilities for Dream Chaser cargo missions.’
The firm and the Pentagon group is eye 2021 for when the craft will take flight for its first demonstration mission to the International Space Station. However, experts have raised concerns that combined with the US Space Force this space station could mean ‘Starship Troopers’ are on the horizon
However, the move of the Pentagon to launch its own space station has raised concerns.
‘Secure World Foundation’s Victoria Samson told Breaking Defense: ‘It does raise a lot of questions: namely, what R&D/scientific research did they want to work on that really necessitated this?’
‘I would argue the optics are pretty questionable: if the Chinese military announced that it was creating its own space station, purely for scientific reasons of course, there would be a lot of people who find it pretty threatening.’
‘One only has to look at how Chinese lunar missions have been perceived to get a sense of it.
‘Combine this with concerns that the creation of the Space Force means that Starship Troopers are eventually in our future, and it looks like the US has plans for space that it’s not talking about publicly.’