KBR Explores High-Speed Transportation in Space for U.S. Government Logistical Efforts
The National Defense Transportation Association (NDTA) recently hosted its annual fall meeting with U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) Transportation Academy. The theme for this year’s event was, “Innovative and Disruptive … 20/20 Vision for the Future.”
USTRANSCOM Commander General Stephen R. Lyons delivered the keynote address from command headquarters at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. He announced USTRANSCOM is looking to space as a way to quickly move critical cargo and personnel during time-sensitive contingencies, as well as to deliver humanitarian assistance.
USTRANSCOM is teaming with Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) and Exploration Architecture Corporation (XArc) via Cooperative Research and Development Agreements to explore innovative space transportation options. KBR is currently supporting XArc in XArc’s CRADA study by providing experience and expertise in ground support and logistics.
During the event, Teresa Demming, Manager, Future Operations of KBR, and Sam Ximenes, space architect and CEO of XArc, delivered a joint course entitled, “Basing Criteria for Point-to-Point Global Space Transportation and Delivery.” The hour-long briefing included solutions under consideration for pre-prepared spaceports; pre-built receive and launch locations, such as airfields or heliports; and potential troublesome landing and takeoff scenarios.
Logistics for ground support, while complicated for space, remain consistent to include site preparation/reception, payload handling, spaceship and crew maintenance, and refueling and onward distribution of payload. KBR’s vast expertise in these areas augments could propel USTRANSCOM toward its goal of being able to move 80 tons of cargo — the equivalent of a C-17 transport — via a space-based vehicle anywhere on the globe within one hour.
Making this dream a reality is no small task. Conversations between USTRANSCOM, XArc, KBR, and other consultants and specialists are focused on evaluating theoretical concepts, such as orbital depots, space drop scenarios, global orbital and suborbital launch sites, regulatory constraints and, of course, space vehicle considerations.
Vice Adm. Dee Mewbourne, USTRANSCOM Deputy Commander, leads the command’s effort on rocket cargo “hops” or quick trips for deliveries. In a recent article on the subject, he said the command’s fastest method of delivery is constrained to around 40,000 feet altitude and 600 mph. He inquired about the possibilities for logistical fulfillment at about 10 times those figures if urgent support was needed on the other side of the world.
KBR is currently evaluating existing ground support facilities; materiel handling; mission dedicated equipment, supplies, materiel and personnel; intermodal cargo transfer; as well as seamless integration of air and space transport modalities to work through a variety of possible contingencies. According to Mewbourne, “It’s time to learn how our current strategies to project and sustain forces can evolve with a new mode of transportation.”
“Space is the next frontier for logistics and this is a revolutionary time for point-to-point movement of cargo and personnel,” said Ella Studer, Senior Vice President for KBR Government Solutions U.S. “KBR’s expertise in providing logistics at military bases worldwide combined with its rich background in the space domain will forge the future of transportation.”