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Although the chuckle factor hasn't altogether disappeared, the Air Force Research Laboratory and Darpa are beginning a study of options for a reusable upper-stage space travel vehicle -- the same kind of technology that the Marines might need for a ride halfway across the globe.
The effort is called "Hot Eagle," and it could be the first step forward in the Marine Corps' hopes for space travel. Within minutes of bursting into the atmosphere beyond the speed of sound -- and dispatching that ominous sonic boom -- a small squad of Marines could be on the ground and ready to take care of business within 2 hours. [One presentation muses that the capsule might later be picked up by a Osprey or by a "balloon cable and C-17" transport plane. Or, the Marines might "hike out," and "leave [the] crew capsule behind." -- ed.]
The Marine Corps calls the concept the Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion Capability (Sustain). This plan, a growing group of Marine supporters say, is the natural evolution of the service's proclivity for expeditionary warfare that began decades ago with amphibious landings...
The concept is to deliver strategic equipment or a small squad of soldiers to any point on the globe -- even the most hard-to-reach location -- within hours of need. Once on the ground, those soldiers can carry out strategically critical missions like reconnaissance or destroying a specific target.
Unlike the Air Force, Navy and Army, all three of which sponsor expensive satellite programs, the cash-strapped Marines are pushing just one space concept. It's called Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion, or SUSTAIN, and it's a reusable spaceplane meant to get a squad of Marines to any hotspot on Earth in two hours -- then get them out. The idea is to reinforce embattled embassies, take out terrorist leaders or defuse hostage situations before it's too late. "The Marine Corps needs [this] capability," Brig. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer told Congress in 2004.
"The Corps has always been an expeditionary force, a force of readiness, a 911 force," Wassink says. "All SUSTAIN is, is a requirement to move Marines very rapidly from one place to another. Space lends itself to that role."
Spaceplanes -- that is, craft that take off and land like airplanes but achieve low orbit using rocket motors -- aren't science fiction anymore. In 2004, Burt Rutan's Space Ship One snared the $10 million X-Prize by demonstrating that a relatively cheap and simple vehicle could get a man into low orbit in two stages and return him safely. Air Force Brig. Gen. S. Pete Worden said Rutan's bird offers a glimpse of a future military space transport. “It’s just a scaled-up version of that that would do this [SUSTAIN] mission."
A realistic IOC date for SUSTAIN would thus be between 2035 and 2045. From the present until then, one can expect that the problems of materials, flight controls, and propulsion that now doom any near-term RLV effort will be solved. Just as similar problems on the V-22 were taken care of by advances in computer technology and engine design, a small-scale but long-term effort to take advantage of future technological progress could realistically lead to a decision to go ahead with the development of a SUSTAIN-type vehicle sometime around 2020.
Originally posted by GradyPhilpott
The Marine Corps worked in the Osprey for twenty years when everyone in the world said they'd never work and that they were too dangerous to fly even if they did. Guess what. I see one or two whisking around Albuquerque on a regular basis.
Originally posted by Sean0352
Yeah you still see the Osprey at LeJeune too. Neat to look at, but still got some bugs. Semper!
"...[W]e're stuck with it, so we've got to make it work...."
Originally posted by The_Smokeing_Gun
but what would be the purpose of having space marines other then evading other planets?
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