"After three years of being laughed out of meetings, the U.S. Marine Corps' futuristic plans to deploy through space may finally be getting some traction," notes Aviation Week's spunky new spin-off, Defense Technology International.
Although the chuckle factor hasn't altogether disappeared, the Air Force Research Laboratory and Darpa are beginning a study of options for a reusable upper-stage space travel vehicle -- the same kind of technology that the Marines might need for a ride halfway across the globe.The effort is called "Hot Eagle," and it could be the first step forward in the Marine Corps' hopes for space travel. Within minutes of bursting into the atmosphere beyond the speed of sound -- and dispatching that ominous sonic boom -- a small squad of Marines could be on the ground and ready to take care of business within 2 hours. [One presentation muses that the capsule might later be picked up by a Osprey or by a "balloon cable and C-17" transport plane. Or, the Marines might "hike out," and "leave [the] crew capsule behind." -- ed.]The Marine Corps calls the concept the Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion Capability (Sustain). This plan, a growing group of Marine supporters say, is the natural evolution of the service's proclivity for expeditionary warfare that began decades ago with amphibious landings...The concept is to deliver strategic equipment or a small squad of soldiers to any point on the globe -- even the most hard-to-reach location -- within hours of need. Once on the ground, those soldiers can carry out strategically critical missions like reconnaissance or destroying a specific target.At least, that's their pitch.THERE'S MORE: Speaking of space, Popular Mechanics is all over NASA's return-to-the-moon announcement.