82 thoughts on “The Space Corps”

  1. Had this happened sooner, this might have actually rescued Dream Chaser. But having it just start now is probably too little too late. But we’ll see. It will be a profound change for the aerospace community, but not a ripple will be heard about it from the MSM.

    1. but not a ripple will be heard about it from the MSM.

      It doesn’t matter what Trump is doing because as Rand used to say, “Space is not important.”

  2. As Joe Biden might say, “This is a big deal!” With separate funding, they will natural branch out in different directions to establish turf. Most things will be a bust, but a few things like point to point ballistic travel might become common.

    Instead of 100 passenger, a version of SpaceX ITS may do rapid deployment force duty. Dream Chasers would wait in orbit for missions.

    Fuel depots not just a no brainer, but actually implemented. The bad news is we’d hardly ever know what they were up to.

    1. If the Army or the Marines decide they need sub-orbital troop carriers, their needs are unlikely to be met by SpaceX’s BFS. It’s far from obvious that such a capability is needed, in any event, before means exist to support such expeditionary forces once deployed.

      Civilian sub-orbital point-to-point flight will happen if there is an economic justification for same. I’m skeptical there is. Whether it happens or not, however, is entirely unconnected to whatever new capabilities the military may decide it needs.

      Both a Space Force and a USCG-like High Guard will need quite a number of telerobotic spacecraft deployed in various orbits around Earth and in cis-lunar space. I’m not sure a Dream Chaser variant is likely to be among them, but as a stand-by rescue craft for civilian space stations, it may well have a role. But it won’t be manned while on stand-by. Ditto propellant depots.

      1. It’s far from obvious that such a capability is needed, in any event, before means exist to support such expeditionary forces once deployed.

        Logistics is kind of the point. An RDF would secure a dispersal point behind enemy lines so that slower units could then be safely delivered. Imagine if we bypassed the slaughter of both the beaches of Normandy and the inland airdrops which were both horrendous. Those forces would then be a secure place to send more slower forces that would then secure ports by attacking the rear of the enemy while fixing them in place with shore bombardment (“holding their noses while kicking them in the ass.” as Patton put it.)

        Plus the fact that being able to quickly put down forces at strategic points can totally destroy a defense that could hardly plan for it.

        1. Logisitics is exactly the point.

          Say a SpaceX BFS is adaptable as a point-to-point sub-orbital troop carrier. Against targets on ground that is “owned” by failed states or pretend-states such as ISIS, such a thing could – theoretically – be useful. Elon says BFS will carry 100 settlers to Mars in comfort. Applying the rough ratio of 4:1 for passenger liner troopship conversions in WW2 – such as the Queen Mary – one could maybe carry 400 troops with all their personal gear and weapons, plus a fair amount of extra ammo and things like claymore mines for defending a perimeter. That’s a couple infantry companies. Total mass might be ca. 150 tonnes, roughly 1/3 what BFS is supposed to be able to land on Mars starting with full tanks.

          But both up and down portions of our converted troop carrier’s flight profile will be vs. Earth gravity, not Martian. And it’d be well-advised to have enough propellant left after dropping off the troopies and such to do a deadhead run back to wherever it came from, or – better – someplace a lot closer by. At best, it would need to land with its tanks 1/4 full. Failing that, it becomes a big, conspicuous, expensive and helpless target for things as low-tech as machine guns and RPG’s. A quick in-and-out is the only way such a thing could survive even a surprise landing in the back-country of some Grasshutistan or other.

          Thing is, failed states and Grasshutistans tend to be small places and many have seacoasts. An amphibious assault ship and a dozen or so Ospreys would be just as useful, only marginally slower to get on-site, and – key point – they’re both already in the inventory and ready to go. Plus, they can do it repeatedly and continuously for quite awhile. An amphibious assault ship is a pretty decent logistics hub and can, itself, be safely resupplied by both sea and air.

          Face it, the only potential opponents with land areas large enough and inland enough to justify sub-orbital deep penetration ops are Russia and China. Such ops would only be justified if speed were absolutely of the essence and the target to be captured was both surpassingly important and, for whatever reason, not better addressed with equally prompt destruction via some sort of ballistic ordnance. Right off-hand, I can’t think of a single one.

          Good thing, probably, as our hypothetical BFS-based sub-orbital troop carrier won’t be survivable coming down toward territory that has SAM’s, radar and warplanes. A BFS adapted to be even so-so survivable in a hi-tech threat environment is going to have to use an awful lot of what would otherwise be payload to mount self-protection equipment – like multiple laser cannon turrets. By the time the defensive weaponry is accounted for, there’s not going to be much room left to carry troops and their equipment.

          That’s the reason Normandy was such a meat-grinder for the paratroops. They weren’t being delivered deep, they were being delivered just beyond the beaches. And their transports had no defenses either. Even allowing for Charlie Foxtrots like St. Mere Eglise, the majority of paratroop casualties were incurred when flak took down the gliders and Dakotas they were riding in. With the notable exception of the place already named, if you actually lived to hit the silk over Normandy, your chances weren’t bad.

          Modern air defenses, of course, make Normandy’s ubiquitous 88’s look like peashooters. A descending sub-orbital troop carrier is about as big and fat a target as one can imagine and throws out more heat and radar signature than an entire wing of Dakotas. In the terminal part of its trajectory it’s not moving a whole lot faster either.

          This is not an operational concept worth pursuing.

          1. You’re probably right, but allow me to take one more whack at the dead horse.

            Not survivable is a pretty good description of Normandy era landing craft. Before Normandy a Canadian landing that preceded it taught us where not to attempt landing. They were almost totally wiped out even with 10:1 odds against less than elite defenders..

            our hypothetical BFS-based sub-orbital troop carrier won’t be survivable coming down toward territory that has SAM’s, radar and warplanes.

            Normandy had bombardment. Our multiple BFS troop carriers would certainly be vulnerable, but defenses can be overwhelmed when the point is to get troops on the ground. Planes would be the most effective defenders but might be late to the party because minutes matter. By the time the jets scramble they could already be on the ground.

            Temporarily jam the radar (with too much echo) and half the SAMs are useless as well. That ground would be a least defended area which is the only reason Normandy worked. They captured landing ports after.

            Probably not a good idea, but there might be some worthy aspect.

          2. Logisitics is exactly the point.

            400 SEALs or other specialized units are things to worry about. Everything needs to be defended in the field and a giant ship would be an easier target but not a passive one with troops there.

            Troop delivery might not be the main purpose though. Consider places like Afghanistan, where we have defended positions and air superiority. What we don’t have is a logistics chain that allows us to bypass places like Pakistan very well.

            I don’t know if it would work out but it could simplify and speed up supply.

            In a scenario like D-Day, you can expect anything to get waxed somehow. But we do a lot of things that are not D-Day.

  3. Now, to get NASA reduced to JPL, Stennis, and maybe Huntsville, and the rest of the NASA centers transferred to the Space Corps…

    1. Well I don’t know about that. I think it would regress our purpose in commercializing space. If these assets get funneled into the defense sector it will only make it harder for the commercial sector to bloom.
      NASA needs to get its mission revised, for sure, and perhaps a couple of its centers should be closed. I think Marshall Space Flight center for example should just be privatized.

      1. Other places I think should be made private would be Kennedy Space Center, and the Michoud Assembly Facility.
        The manned space facilities should probably be folded into the Space Guard though.

        Basically I propose all NASA launch and propulsion operational related facilities to be broken up and privatized, and the manned space and tracking facilities to be folded into the Space Guard.

        1. Manned space is entirely civilian and is likely to stay that way for quite some time. I don’t see a U.S. Space Force needing to put people in space anytime soon any more than Space Command currently does. SpaceX’s manned launch facility is at Kennedy and ULA’s is within the Canaveral fences. But both will be launching exclusively civilians for a long time.

      2. So NASA would continue with JPL robotic space science, and test facilities (wind tunnels, propulsion test stands). The R&D centers would be split from NASA as stand alone operations associated with local universities and contractors.

        1. Good ideas. NASA is at least as ripe for a major reorganization as are the U.S. armed services. But NASA is a civilian agency and should remain so. No aspect of a NASA overhaul is going to be relevant to standing up a U.S. Space Force. NASA, in whatever future form it takes, will continue to need space launch capability. It will acquire the rockets from commercial providers and use Space Force facilities to launch some of them just as it does now when the titular owner of said facilities is USAF – e.g., Canaveral and Vandenberg.

      3. I think Marshall made sense when Von Braun was chief designer and took care of overall vehicle design. It was a really complex project which no contractor back then could do alone so it needed it own organization to organize the contractors. Now that the whole design is farmed out to private contractors, as it should be, the umbrella organization created around Von Braun makes no freaking sense anymore.
        So unless someone wants to make something akin to the Apollo project all over again, say something like Project Starshot, I think this sort of gargantuan organization makes no sense in the current world.

        1. I agree that Marshall has become, to a very considerable degree, cancerous and needs to be removed. The same is true of Goddard.

          But these are considerations quite separate from any Space Force to be stood up. NASA is a civilian agency and needs to stay that way. A Space Force would find no use for any of the NASA centers save possibly Kennedy. I assume both the Cape and Vandenberg would be part of the USAF patrimony hived off to stand up the Space Force.

          1. Both would remain dual military/commercial use. Though it will be a long time, if ever, before the USSC has its own means of getting humans or payloads to orbit. I suspect that will be commercial.

          2. Anent robotic and telerobotic spacecraft used by either a military Space Force or a civilian High Guard, you are quite correct. That isn’t to say both the putative Space Force and the High Guard won’t eventually need purpose-built crewed spacecraft. But even those will be supplied commercially. I mean the freakin’ F-35 is supplied commercially in the sense that its manufacturer is not a state-owned corporation as is the case in China or Russia.

      4. If these assets get funneled into the defense sector it will only make it harder for the commercial sector to bloom.

        If NASA was disallowed from competing with commerce, SLS would have to suit a military purpose and come out of a military budget. NASA would get more done buying services from commercial vendors instead of competing with them.

        1. First off, NASA is not “competing with commerce.” SLS is totally non-competitive in today’s launch market. In the launch market that exists by the time the misbegotten thing actually flies – if ever – its non-competitiveness will just have grown by another order of magnitude.

          Second, SLS has even less military utility than it does civilian utility. It may yet live long enough to re-do Apollo 8 and send a Europa mission on its way. There is nothing military that could use SLS in preference to some other vehicle.

          Killing off SLS is a worthy goal, but try not to get it tangled up in standing up a Space Force. Many of the people trying to do the latter are major SLS partisans as well. SLS will die, at some point, of terminal irrelevance. I am content to let that happen organically.

          Trying to float some scheme to tie a quicker death for SLS to the creation of a Space Force is a complete non-starter – and it should be. A Space Force is actually important. SLS is not. Expensive, yes. Important, no. We’re a rich country. We can afford to let the SLS-ers play a few more years if they’re helpful in other ways in the interim. Getting a Space Force up and running would, in my mind, compensate for a lot of SLS foolishness.

          1. I was referring to how the space shuttle took business away from private companies, NOT that it was competitive in a business sense.

            You’re absolutely right about SLS in all respects.

            A Space Force is actually important. SLS is not.

            Well summarized.

    2. The Space Force has no need of NASA centers – any of them. NASA reorganization and downsizing is a good idea, but it has nothing to do with standing up a Space Force.

  4. Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) said he only learned about the proposal last week, when it first came before the subcommittee on strategic forces.

    “I chastised my staff and said, ‘How could I not know that this was happening?’ They said, ‘Well, they had a meeting about it and you missed it,’” Turner said.

    You had one job…

    1. In particular, in Ohio, next to Wright-Patterson AFB, the whole of the Representative’s staff has a job to preserve the budget wrangling abilities of the Air Staff. They fell off a cliff here, by the design of the Chair of the full committee, and his ranking member. I hope a “Space Guard” is also stood up in the next several years, to keep the “Space Corps” and later the “Space Force” from being distracted with civilian affairs. That, however, is not the job of the Armed Services Committee.

      1. Agree. We need a High Guard to deal with space debris and to aid spacefarers in distress. The latter could be crew of commercial LEO or higher Earth-orbiting stations, crew of any installation or craft in cis-lunar free space and even people in lunar surface outposts. The high Guard will need to pre-position suitable telerobotic rescue/evacuation craft in selected spots. Neither the High Guard nor the Space Force will necessarily need to have people permanently stationed in space for quite some time.

      2. If we are to have a Space Corps, then we should also have a High Guard – Coast Guard analog to monitor and protect near-earth. Someone needs to start clearing the orbitals, after all.

      1. Keeping in mind that star fleet is a fascist force it seems quite likely with our current social trajectory.

    1. Hopefully sooner rather than later! The UNN and MCRN ships in The Expanse are some of the coolest spaceships I’ve seen/read in a while!

  5. I think this was long overdue. From the articles it also seems to have support from everyone that matters in the committee regardless of party affiliation. Given current technology a Space Corps can do a lot more than just take care of space assets. They can provide rapid troop insertion capabilities (one need only look at a Falcon 9 landing to figure this out), long-distance bombardment, or ASAT capabilities.

    1. We’re not really where we need to be to deploy Rico’s Roughnecks yet. I think sub-orbital troop carriers, in any case, ought to be the purview of the Army and Marines – especially the Marines.

      Space-based ASAT and counter-ASAT capability, though, should be the core of the Space Force’s mission and is doable in fairly short order. So is space-to-ground kinetic weaponry for smashing ground targets that pose dangers to space assets (e.g., big ground-based lasers).

      1. I would look to a “Space Corps”, as a first priority outside current operations, to finally bring a “Responsive Launch” system to operational status, to reduce the time needed to replace destroyed imaging sats from 3 years to 3 days. As a second priority, I would want them developing the ability to build on-orbit the 100+ meter apertures, both optical and radar, needed to maintain imaging from altitudes too high for either North Korea or Iran to affect. This would build off the demo contracts already signed with Made-in-Space and with Tethers Unlimited.

        Eventually these recon altitudes would move out to places like EML-1, where a full factory for building spacecraft should be available by 2030. That would be the first place a “Space Corps” would want to actually “station” its people in Space. Those personnel would handle the complexity and light lag in getting the 95% of a full spacecraft built that could be built from materials delivered from places like 2016HO3. From that position, they can drop spacecraft farther down the gravity well, or build large power supplies to ensure bandwidth remains sufficient to growing needs of the warfighter, or even larger comsat apertures.

        Only after all of these are in place will there be the tech to build civilian spacecraft in Space itself. Once that begins, predicting the places and numbers of Space Corps personnel needed becomes far more difficult. I’ll admit, the idea of dropping Thor’s Hammer on a malicious malware-making mafia does leave a nice tingle, however.

        1. I take a bit different approach to surveillance assets. Not at all a fan of the few-big-sitting-ducks approach regardless of at what altitude they’re deployed. Given a rational defense policy, both North Korea and Iran would cease to exist long before we could build 100-meter apertures in cis-lunar space. But the Chinese and the Russians will be around to make trouble for awhile and both already have way more capability to do so than the fat boy with the funny haircut or those 13 degenerates in Qom.

        2. I would look to a “Space Corps”, as a first priority outside current operations, to finally bring a “Responsive Launch” system to operational status, to reduce the time needed to replace destroyed imaging sats from 3 years to 3 days.

          Are they replacing the assets or the capabilities (not just imaging) those assets are responsible for? Should space become off limits for a time, those capabilities might need to be replicated a little closer to Earth’s surface.

          I think that google guy is onto something.

    1. I holding out for the World Space Patrol. Headquartered at Space City located on an equatorial island off the western coast of South America. Consisting of a spaceport capable of servicing various air and space craft, including 20 ‘Fireball’ class space interceptors.

      They say the Commander there is a real hard ass, but his best pilot is some kind of unrepentant beatnik that likes cool jazz. Go figure….

  6. Well, now they have to pick new uniforms. White would make sense but the Navy already wears it. Space black would be good but the Nazis did it to death. So I’m thinking day-glow orange. No military has had orange dress uniforms yet.

    There’s also the possibility of plaid uniforms, as a callback to Spaceballs.

      1. Orange, the color of rocket exhaust.

        They’ll be dressing like Herb Tarlek.

        Image of Herb, Jennifer, and Less Nessman

        I like the yellow grid stripes. It reminds me of the Millennium Falcon’s laser cannon targeting display.

        The Space Branch could also give award pins that like look like descending Atari space invaders.

        1. I was the same age as Will, and that was my favorite show at the time. But I was frustrated that they didn’t do more space traveling after the first season.

          I didn’t see Star Trek until it was in reruns.

      1. The potential for ugly uniform disputes is high.

        The brouhaha began in April when Air Force Space Command decreed that airmen not assigned to flying operations could not wear flight suits or leather jackets after Oct 1. The change affects about 800 airmen in space systems operations and just more than 1,000 in space and missile operations.

        The move was meant to save Space Command about $670,000 per year and bridge the gap between the “haves and have-nots” among airmen who wear the flight suits and jackets and those who don’t, commander Gen. William Shelton said in a statement.

        The announcement prompted a flurry of back-and-forth about whether the flight suit is merely a status symbol.

        “If someone acts like they’re better than you because they are wearing a flight suit, then they need to be put in their place,” one person wrote.

        Orange plaid covered with Atari space invader pins might eliminate that jealousy problem.

        1. …might eliminate that jealousy problem.

          Assuming jealousy to be a rational response is the problem. You can’t make a thing ugly enough for someone else not to be jealous of it.

        2. Yes. Make flight suits ridiculous enough and wearing one will flip from being a status symbol to being a lack-of-status symbol. Or at least a lack-of-class symbol.

          1. Dick,

            You don’t understand…… 😉

            It doesn’t matter if they look good. What matters is that they are different, and that they indicate a “status” – like Pilot.

            As fashion statements, USAF green flight suits don’t have much going for them. But everyone knows what it means if you are wearing one…especially if it has a set of wings.

            Same with wings. USAF Rocketeers have a badge they can wear on their uniform showing that they are rocketeers. Doesn’t matter – they aren’t wings 😉

            When I was going through AFROTC there was a special squad you could join that did all kinds of extra things – special marching with fake rifles. Did lots of rifle twirling etc.

            They wore berets.

            The wore fourrageres.

            They referred to the rest of us as “the herd”.

            This stuff is rife throughout the military services and it performs a function.

            Should a Space Force be created with human piloted space fighters, you can rest assured they will consider themselves above the level of your basic space battle station gunner and earthbound fighter pilot. 😉

    1. Pajama pants and vintage t-shirts from the 1970’s since they will just be sitting behind a computer most days. For days they need to go in the field, then can wear aprons.

  7. The Royal Australian Air Force had some bright orange flight suits back in the 1960’s.
    Colors of uniforms are interesting. Seen a Royal Air Force uniform? A dirty grey color with just hint of blue. My theory is that when it was formed the boss, Hugh “Boom” Trenchard, told one of his flunkies that the new uniform should be the color of the sky so the flunky went outside and looked up at the sky of 1918 London…..
    The Space Corps should wear Black with silver trim.

  8. They should throw in the ICBM force too. Get them out from under the fighter mafia that treats them like a 2nd class citizen.

    1. Yes. I think we are way overdue to be cribbing “Strategic Rocket Forces” from the Russkies.

    2. It would be nice to see a fleet of X-37b’s and things like Orbital ATK’s MEV on standby with ICBM’s.

      They could also consider hosting civilian assets like replacement communications satellites. Keeping our society functioning is certainly in the military’s interest.

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