SUSTAIN: Getting Forces Anywhere in the World w/in Hours, Not Days

Paul Damphousse, Chief of Advanced Concepts for the National Security Space Office, gave a presentation on Friday at ISDC about SUSTAIN – an advanced vehicle  that would allow the Pentagon to deplay a force of 12-13 Marines anywhere in the world within a few hours.

The vehicle – which could go suborbital and might use hypersonic propulsion – would help solve a strategic problem that military authorities faced in the wake of the 9-11 attacks. The Pentagon had Marine expeditionary forces standing by in the Persian Gulf, but it took weeks and months to deploy them because of the need to obtain overflight permissions from Pakistan, Damphousse said. By sending the forces in a reusable, suborbital spaceplane, the U.S. would avoid such problems.

Damphousse recently held a 3-day workshop at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas which was attended by aerospace companies, including some of the leaders in the emerging space tourism field. Military officials are looking to see how they can leverage commercial developments to meet national security needs.

The result was a request for information that was sent out. A technology roadmap for SUSTAIN and other suborbital missions is in the works, Damphousse added.

  • Charles Phillips

    This idea has been around for a while but the challenges are still too great. For one thing – a force of even the best trained special ops people needs to be larger than 15 people, and must be re-supplyable. The numbers of people they are talking about it too small. Would we shoot several vehicles for the people and then more for ammo and food?
    And we are gonna take an expensive, complex vehicle and shoot it into a country from which we are unlikely to be able to return it? The chance that it could drop people and then fly back is vanishingly small. And if we can’t get permission to fly people in, we can’t recover our vehicle.
    And small groups (lets say under 50) would rather arrive with some surprise, not be dropped from the sky by a large, noisy, craft.
    The idea has been around since Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, but is still a very difficult concept.