The Defense Department contracted with a Nevada-based company earlier this month to develop a space outpost from which military research and operations could be run.
The move by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit marks an important step as rival nations like China and Russia maneuver to militarize space.
The Sierra Nevada Corporation said in a news release it has been tasked with repurposing its Shooting Star transport vehicle into “essentially a scalable, autonomous space station for experiments and logistics demonstrations.”
“We’re excited by the multi-mission nature of Shooting Star,” SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen said. “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 possible applications for Shooting Star are really endless,” Ozmen added.
The company explained that the Shooting Star is a 16-foot attachment to Dream Chaser space plane, which was developed for NASA resupply missions.
“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,” said Steve Lindsey, senior vice president of strategy for SNC’s Space Systems business area.
“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 former NASA space shuttle commander added.
TheDrive reported that the mini-station could serve as the precursor to a larger manned military station.
The Defense Innovation Unit “said when it first publicly unveiled its orbital outpost plans last year that it was interested in proposals that could eventually have a ‘human-rating,’ meaning they could support manned operations, or serve as a stepping stone to a larger and more robust military space station,” according to TheDrive.
— Sierra Nevada Corporation (@SierraNevCorp) July 16, 2020
The DUI is looking to have the space station completed within 24 months.
The mini-station will almost certainly be utilized by the nascent Space Force, which President Donald Trump officially signed into being in December.
“That is something really incredible. It’s a big moment,” Trump said at the time regarding the creation of the Space Force. “Going to be a lot of things happening in space, because space is the world’s newest warfighting domain.”
“Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital. And we’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough. But very shortly, we’ll be leading by a lot,” he added.
Establishing a military space post is clearly part of what the DOD has determined will help the United States ensure dominance in what is truly the last frontier.
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