The United States Department of Defense is quietly working on launching its own space station, which would be used to carry out various experiments in orbit. The information was revealed by The Drive.
According to the publication, on the last 14th the Pentagon signed a contract with the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) that provides for the transformation of a small cargo ship into an experimental space mini-station. The equipment has been developed by the company since 2016, with the objective of being a transport vehicle to refuel the International Space Station (ISS).
Now, the agreement provides for adaptations to the original design of the ship, called the Shooting Star, so that it becomes an unmanned orbital outpost. With the changes, it would be able to support various types of research and development missions, operations and training.
There would even be the possibility of manned missions at the experimental station, according to the vehicle, should the Pentagon wish, although the original project does not describe this. “The possible applications for the Shooting Star are really endless,” commented SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen, in a statement released by the aerospace company.
Prototype in development
The prototype of the vessel created by SNC is 4.8 meters long and has the capacity to transport around 4.5 tons of cargo. Transport can be done either in the pressurized internal compartment or in equipment attached to the external part.
There are also two arrays of solar panels capable of generating up to 6 kilowatts of energy on board and six propellers that allow maneuvers to be carried out to adjust its orbit, independently. The spacecraft’s first demonstration mission is due to take place in 2021, taking it to the ISS.
The version adapted for the Pentagon could be used in operations in various orbits around the Earth and also in the space between the planet and the Moon.