One of the strangest and saddest pictures after the loss of the Columbia Space Shuttle over Texas were the mission patches someone found in their yard. Astronauts routinely take patches to space to hand out as mementos to the important people that supported their mission from the ground. They’re usually kept deep in a locker on the second deck and never touched throughout the flight. With the loss of Columbia, some of these patches flew out and fluttered to the ground from Mach 18 and landed in someone’s back yard in Texas. They looked like new.
The patches were so light, compared to their surface area, they were able to slow down quickly high in the atmosphere and when the shock waves formed, because of their low weight to drag ratio, they stood off. The hot air shock waves were far enough away that the patches were not burned in any way.
The capability of human inflatable reentry is something that has shown up in the US textbooks on astrodynamics for decades and has been studied repeatedly over a dozen times. In the last 10 years NASA has been flying the “IRVE” (Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment). These have used inflatable “saucers” about 15 feet in diameter with test equipment in the center. They have worked exactly as designed. They have been launched by rocket to 300,000 ft as well as tremendous speeds of 5 times the speed of sound and returned successfully. This technology is fairly easily scaled to reenter at much higher speeds and altitudes.
If they are properly designed, humans in space suits could have them on their backs and could launch, and then inflate them as they reenter from space.
Imagine special operations forces that would launch in groups of 10 on a Blue Origin or Space X reusable rocket from the Central US and as they passed 180,000 ft in altitude had the payload fairing come off and they would be riding, except for their space suit, bare naked into space. As the engines shut down, they could ride the coast phase with a smaller booster to the apex and then un-belt their seatbelt and gently push away from the rocket. The rocket would slow and land on the East Coast, the un-slowed payload fairings would land in the Atlantic, the small booster could be slowed to land in the ocean. As the people separated, they could then inflate their saucer and re-enter the atmosphere. With the right diameter inflatable, 60 feet or so, they would only experience around 2.5 G’s, the force of a moderate roller coaster for about 30 seconds. Once they descended to 15,000 ft above the ground, the special forces troops could unstrap and open a regular square parachute for a precise touchdown. They could begin their mission, a third of the way around the world, just one hour after launch. Launched with them could be their equipment that could have a GPS guided parachute to a pre-planned landing zone.
Think about that. Yes, this is possible, it has been studied and tested for decades.
Also, we have a secret weapon. We have a culture of young people that understand Space. Our people are already used to ubiquitous communications and accurate navigation. They arrive in the military already trained because of the imbedded technology in our culture. e.g. Why bother to look up directions until you start to drive, no planning required, just do it. This was NOT conventional prior to smart phones. People planned all trips to new places with paper maps or extended phone calls with pencil and paper in hand. This simple part of our lives makes our troops independent and, in a way, fearless as they move forward faster, and more accurately, then their counter parts.
Radical change for them is absolutely normal. When I describe a Mach 22 Space Assault of ground troops, I find that young military guys eyes "light up". They can't wait! They don't even care how it works, they are ready to go! Where did they get this attitude from? I think it’s from watching extreme sports like sky surfing, surfing 50 ft waves or skiing off cliffs. If those guys and gals can do that Why can’t I do this?
Is Space Force Tactical Space Transport limited to just launching “bare naked” Special Operations troops into Space? Absolutely NOT, we can now deploy hypersonic spaceplanes manned or unmanned with sensors or weapons, missile defense interceptors, armed or sensor carrying airborne drones via inflatables, air to air missiles for long range bomber intercept, anti-submarine warfare buoy deployment, anti-ship mine deployment, cruise missile deployment, logistics support and simple smart bombs themselves. Like the Air Force was in the 1940s to the Army and the Navy, we now realize that the other 3 military components are slower, more concentrated, less nimble and more easily defeated by Space Force systems. The Space Force can provide Space Dominance that exceeds that of Air Dominance allowing the other services to operate freely under the dome of protection provided by the Space Force. We can protect the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Our missions are also not limited to surface, naval and air focused operations. We can utilize these same Tactical Space Transport vehicles for identification of low flying foreign spacecraft to understand their missions and more.
The options with low cost reusable rockets are endless. This technology is only here in the United States. Initiated under the guidance of Mike Griffin and Gary Payton and then executed by Pete Worden, Jess Sponable, myself and a brilliant team from McDonnell Douglas and Pratt and Whitney, reusable rockets were first proved with the DC-X in the mid 1990s. This is a technology, like the internet, that no one can predict what will happen next.
We are the greatest space faring nation on the planet. Space Force Tactical Space Transport is one of many missions we need the US Space Force to begin executing with military precision to protect all of our people on the land, sea or air.