Blue Origin joins US military “rocket cargo” program

The cargo rocket project will explore the military utility, performance and cost of transporting cargo and people on commercial rockets

WASHINGTON – Blue Origin has signed a cooperation agreement with the U.S. military to explore the possibility of one day using its rockets to transport goods and people around the world.

A cooperative research and development agreement known as CRADA was signed on Dec. 17 with Blue Origin, a spokesperson for the US Transportation Command said on Dec. 29.

US TRANSCOM oversees global military logistics operations. The order signed similar agreements with SpaceX and Exploration Architecture Corp. last year. (XArc). Blue Origin is the third company to sign a CRADA for the cargo rocket program.

Under CRADA, companies agree to share information about their products and capabilities, but the government makes no commitment to buy anything. Analysis of industry data by US TRANSCOM will inform the new “rocket cargo” program led by the Air Force Research Laboratory and the US Space Force. The Air Force, in its budget proposal for fiscal year 2022, is seeking $ 47.9 million to conduct rocket studies and demonstrations.

The rocket cargo project will use modeling and simulations to analyze the military utility, performance and cost of carrying loads on commercial rockets and air drop payloads.

“Not all operations will require logistics in space, but when we need to react faster or ensure access in difficult environments, we recognize that space now offers a toolbox, not just a concept.” said Vice Admiral Dee Mewbourne, Deputy Commander. by US TRANSCOM.

“We want our understanding of the potential of space transportation to keep pace with the technical and operational realities that are being built,” he said.

In March 2020, US TRANSCOM signed a CRADA with SpaceX to study the use of SpaceX’s commercial space transportation capabilities to accelerate the global delivery of DoD materiel and personnel. In April 2020, he signed a CRADA with XArc (Exploration Architecture Corporation) to advise the command on the conditions necessary for the use of commercial space ports.

Blue Origin operates a reusable New Shepard suborbital launcher for space tourism and is developing a heavy-lift orbital launcher called the New Glenn with a reusable first stage. Reusable stages and capsules that deploy parachutes to land space tourists are among the technologies that would be needed to make point-to-point cargo deliveries.

The company has yet to fly New Glenn and plans to debut in late 2022 pending the successful completion of BE-4 engine development. Seven BE-4s will equip the first stage of Blue Glenn.

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