Flight Global has more information on this week’s National Security Space Office (NSSO) conference on suborbital vehicles. Invited guests to the Texas confab include a who’s who of private companies trying to develop space tourism, including Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and XCOR.
“Some of these [commercial spaceflight] companies are starting to become aware that their capability can be used for national security needs,” says Lt Col Paul Damphousse, a US Marine Corps representative at the NSSO. “We’re just trying to find out what types of activities are going on and if they’re applicable to some of the needs that we have.”
The USMC has documented an ambitious need for a spacecraft that can transport up to 13 marines through space to any spot on Earth within 2h. The official concept – dubbed Small Unit Space Transport Insertion – was launched in 2002, but its requirement for an orbital-class, reusable spacecraft has pushed it perhaps decades into the future.
“They set the bar very, very high,” Damphousse says. “In this latest iteration we said: ‘Well, do we necessarily need that near-instantaneous crisis response? Do we need to attain orbit? Or is this something that can be shorter range? Let’s look at the suborbital band’.”
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