The United States Military’s Air Mobility Command says that refueling and resupplying the U.S. military may soon be done from space.
Air Force General Carlton Everhart is the head of Air Mobility Command. He told VOA, “If I can resupply from space, I can go across the globe in about 30 minutes.” He added, “I do truly believe that is the next step.”
Everhart said the time gained by using hypersonic spacecraft could keep the U.S. ahead in “the speed of war.” That is an area where countries such as China and Russia are trying to make gains.
The idea of using space to deliver supplies is more possible than ever before, say supporters. Many companies that Everhart hopes to partner with are already working on this kind of technology.
Eric Stallmer is president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. The group, based in Washington D.C., supports the development of the space flight industry. Stallmer said that companies like SpaceX and Sierra Nevada, and even foreign companies, could be good partners for the U.S. government.
Cost, however, remains an important issue for space flight.
Experts say the need to transport supplies through space must be greater than the financial costs. For example, it might only be used during very important operations.
Todd Harrison is a space and defense expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 is an example of a situation where speed was more important than cost. The attack resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
“Imagine if we had been able to launch a SEAL team and put them right down in that compound within 45 minutes of knowing that it was under attack. It could have made the difference,” he said.
Everhart is not only interested in launching supplies from one point on Earth to another. He also wants to use satellites to position supplies in space.
Stallmer said a lot of spaceflight companies are studying the idea of space refueling stations. There also are plans to change refueling vehicles into habitats in space once they have been used.
However, it is still unclear when these technologies will be fully developed: Experts have estimated from two to more than 10 years.
But this does not stop Everhart from dreaming.
“The train is leaving the station and we’re going to be on it. And I’m not going to be on the caboose…I’m going to be in the front,” he said.
Everhart said his team is already writing proposals for the government to make space resupply a possibility for the military in the future.