Tech Industry

SpaceX signs a deal to rocket military cargo around the world

The Air Force wants to move more of its logistics into space.

Rendering of a SpaceX Starship in flight.
SpaceX

The US Air Force is enlisting Elon Musk's help in developing a way to deliver military supplies and humanitarian aid via SpaceX rockets. 

The company has signed a contract with the US Department of Defense worth over $102 million to provide point-to-point transit for cargo via space.

The contract, awarded Friday, falls under the Air Force Research Laboratory's rocket cargo program, which aims to take advantage of the falling price of heavy launch capabilities that SpaceX and other companies have brought to the market in recent years. 

Program manager Greg Spanjers told SpaceNews earlier this week that the military is "very interested in the ability to deliver the cargo anywhere on Earth to support humanitarian aid and disaster relief."

The contract doesn't specify which SpaceX rocket or vehicle the initiative will utilize. SpaceX has used its Falcon 9 rocket and Falcon Heavy (which is made up of three Falcon 9 boosters) for military missions in the past, but Musk has made clear that he views Starship as the vehicle of the future.

SpaceX didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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NASA has contracted with SpaceX to use Starship for upcoming moon missions and Musk hopes to use the next-generation spacecraft to continue growing the Starlink broadband satellite constellation. The billionaire founder has also suggested that Starship could be used for point-to-point commercial passenger flights around the world, much like what the Air Force contract is looking for, but with humans instead of cargo. 

That vision of international flights via space relies on a network of spaceports around the world to launch and land. But Spanjers told SpaceNews that the Air Force is looking to explore ways to land at more "austere sites" in potential disaster zones. 

It's not clear when we might see a first demonstration flight under the program. Spanjers added that other launch providers may be awarded similar contracts down the line.