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When it comes to developing leading edge aviation technologies, few organizations can match the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The advanced scientific outfit was formed 50 years ago this year and has in its history introduced the world to a host of revolutionary aviation technologies such as Have Blue, which became the F-117 stealth fighter as well as the Predator and Global Hawk, unmanned air vehicles flying today in Iraq.
The Tactical Technology Office engages in high-risk, high-payoff advanced technology development of military systems, emphasizing the "system" and "subsystem" approach to the development of Aerospace Systems and Tactical Multipliers.
Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion or SUSTAIN is a concept first proposed in 2002 by the United States Marine Corps to deploy Marines via spaceflight to any location on Earth. Project Hot Eagle, launched by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory, is an investigation into the development and use of suborbital spacecraft to fulfill this vision. Hot Eagle would use a craft based on a design similar to Space Ship One, which could launch a squad on a suborbital trajectory in two stages and deliver them anywhere on two hours notice.
As any battlefield commander will tell you, getting troops to the fight can be as difficult as winning it. And for modern-day soldiers, the sites of conflict are so far-flung, and the political considerations of even flying over another country so complicated, that rapid entry has become nearly impossible. If a group of Marine Corps visionaries have their way, however, 30 years from now, Marines could touch down anywhere on the globe in less than two hours, without needing to negotiate passage through foreign airspace. The breathtaking efficiency of such a delivery system could change forever the way the U.S. does battle.
"After three years of being laughed out of meetings, the U.S. Marine Corps' futuristic plans to deploy through space may finally be getting some traction," notes Aviation Week's spunky new spin-off, Defense Technology International.
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.