Military Review

Pentagon and UOO: uninhabited orbital outpost in low orbit


General view of the system as part of Dream Chaser (above) and Shooting Star

The Pentagon launches a new space project. Sierra Nevada has received an order to develop the light space station Unmanned Orbital Outpost (“Uninhabited Orbital Outpost”), which can carry various loads and provide a wide range of work. A promising project will be based on existing development.

New order

Last July, the Defense Innovation Unit announced plans to create an “orbital outpost” based on one of the existing spacecraft. In the near future it was planned to study the available opportunities, receive proposals and launch design work.

The real launch of the new project on July 14, 2020 was reported by the press service of Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). DIU and SNC have signed an agreement to design, build and launch a UOO product for the Ministry of Defense. The cost of the contract and the timing of its implementation have not yet been disclosed. However, it should be remembered that last year stipulated the need for work within 24 months.

Under the terms of the contract, the new UOO station will be developed on the basis of the existing SNC Shooting Star transport ship project. The latter was originally created for operation with the reusable Dream Chaser ship and was supposed to provide flights to the ISS. Now it is proposed to redesign the structure and ensure the fulfillment of other tasks.

SNC notes that the Shooting Star project is already ready and has a high modernization potential. To create an “outpost” of type UOO, you will need only a slight alteration of the existing structure. However, the technical details of such improvements are not called.

The hull of the first ship Shooting Star. UOO will get a similar unit

SNC Corporation is proud that the Pentagon has become interested in its project and will be able to get development in a new quality. Now Shooting Star will be able to find application not only in cargo missions with the Dream Chaser ship, but also in other areas.

Base ship

The base for UOO will be the existing Shooting Star project, well known to specialists and the public. Available data on this ship allow us to imagine what the military “outpost” will be at its base. As the development company notes, fundamental design changes are not needed. Consequently, the characteristics will remain the same.

Shooting Star is a one-time cargo spaceship. It has been developed since 2016 as part of the NASA Commercial Resupply Services-2 program. The objective of the project was to create a “truck” capable of supporting the ISS.

The ship received a conical hull with a length of 15 feet (approx. 4,5 m). It accommodates a volumetric airtight compartment for the main payload, and on the outer surface provides for the installation of three leaky housings for cargo. The total carrying capacity of the ship is 10 thousand pounds (4,5 tons). The ship is equipped with a pair of folding solar panels with a total capacity of 6 kW. There are six shunting engines.

The Shooting Star product can be used either alone or with the reusable Dream Chaser. In the latter case, greater flexibility of application is provided, associated with the possibility of dividing goods into returnable and combustible in the atmosphere.

According to current plans, next year, Dream Chaser and Shooting Star in unmanned execution will make its first flight. Ships together will reach the ISS and deliver the necessary cargo to it. Then the reusable ship will pick up the necessary cargo, return to Earth and land, and the one-time “truck” will burn in dense layers of the atmosphere along with the waste.

Space outpost

It is alleged that the Shooting Star can deliver various loads into orbit, and in addition, the ship can be equipped with one or another equipment. The last opportunity forms the basis of the UOO project. However, specific payloads for such a station have not yet been called. Only the possibility of carrying out various experiments under microgravity conditions is indicated.

The SNC press service reports that the first version of the UOO station will operate in low Earth orbit. In the future, the emergence of new modifications that can work in other orbits, up to the flyby of the moon - depending on customer requirements.

Thus, UOO can primarily be considered as a research platform. With its help, DIU and the Pentagon will be able to conduct the necessary experiments, dramatically reducing their dependence on NASA and other structures. At their own research station, the military will be able to test communications, space reconnaissance, navigation systems, etc.

In the future, it is possible to use an “outpost” to solve specific military tasks. Having worked as a test platform and confirming the operability of its load, UOO can become a communications satellite, reconnaissance, etc. At such a station you can even place weapon - not violating existing international treaties. In the recent past, the possibility of further development of the project was mentioned, the result of which will be a manned outpost station for certain tasks.

It is alleged that the development of UOO based on Shooting Star will not take much time, but specific dates have not yet been announced. Last year’s DIU statements suggest that the first flight of the “orbital outpost” will take place no later than 2022 - about a year after the launch of the base cargo ship. After this, it is possible to begin active operation with regular starts.

For two organizations

A new Pentagon order is of particular importance to the SNC. As part of the Dream Chaser and Shooting Star projects, she works in the non-military sphere - through NASA. Obtaining a contract from DIU allows you to transfer existing developments to the military field and get all the attendant advantages and opportunities. In fact, one project with some improvements can be implemented in two departments. Accordingly, SNC can count on more orders and additional revenue.

A military project from SNC may be more promising than a "commercial" one. As part of the NASA CRS-2 program, the Shooting Star ship has to deal with quite fierce competition. In the military sphere, the situation is simpler - an agreement on the creation of UOO has already been signed, and you can safely begin work without worrying about its future.

DIU's UOO program is also useful for the military. With its help, the Pentagon will receive its own multi-purpose space platform, suitable for experiments and practical activities. The Orbital Outpost will be a good addition to other military spacecraft, as well as ensure the further development of this area.

Thus, in the near future, Sierra Nevada will have to complete several important projects at once. Next year, she should conduct the first launch of the system as part of the Dream Chaser and Shooting Star ships, and in parallel will work on a military version of the latter - Unmanned Orbital Outpost. Such a station can make its first flight in 2022. Perhaps, already in the first flight it will have a real payload.

In general, the UOO project is quite interesting and has good prospects. In just a few years, the “orbital outpost” will be able to show all its capabilities and enter full operation. The advent of such a technique opens up new possibilities for the Pentagon. Time will tell how they will be used, what it will lead to and how it will affect the US military space program.
Photos used:
Sierra Nevada Corporation /
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  1. mark1
    mark1 17 July 2020 06: 32
    We had an excellent Chelomeevsky TKS, multifunctional - both as a spacecraft (manned and cargo) and as an OKS (Salyut / Almaz for example). As a combat station, it would still be relevant (naturally modified to meet modern requirements). Still that "outpost" would be.
    1. Insurgent
      Insurgent 17 July 2020 09: 54
      General view of the system as part of Dream Chaser (above) and Shooting Star

      How damn similar is the shuttle to the Soviet "Spiral" recourse yes , which, among other things, back in the 60s of the XNUMXth century, set itself more ambitious goals ...

      1. Grazdanin
        Grazdanin 17 July 2020 09: 59
        It is a pity that they launched an expensive and useless Buran, and not him.
        1. Aviator_
          Aviator_ 17 July 2020 14: 16
          dear and useless Buran

          Our 30 tonne became useless only in Yeltsin’s Russia. And the projects of light Shuttles for 1-5 tons of payload by the beginning of the 90s had at least anything to eat - Hermes, Kholtol, Senger, even japas came up with something. And the beginning of their operation was planned for the late 90s, the beginning of zero. However, it did not grow together.
      2. mark1
        mark1 17 July 2020 10: 04
        TCS has almost 50 cubic meters. internal volume, replace the standard descent vehicle with a reusable "bucket" or rocket plane and the Americans did not "orbital" nearby.
        1. mark1
          mark1 17 July 2020 15: 00
          Quote: Grazdanin
          dear and useless Buran,

          Could remove stations based on the TCS from orbit (this was one of its main purposes).
          1. Vadim237
            Vadim237 17 July 2020 17: 01
            The first thing Buran created as a carrier of space-based strike systems and its launch cost a lot of money.
      3. eklmn
        eklmn 17 July 2020 15: 54
        For those who want to see the details in pictures / photos / cartoons - this is here:
  2. zwlad
    zwlad 17 July 2020 07: 23
    And what about Ilon?
    He already has a ship.
    Why build another one?
    1. donavi49
      donavi49 17 July 2020 07: 59
      Contrary to all myths, the military does not like him. For he breaks them raspberries with Deltas at 280-460mln per launch.

      And he does not have a ship suitable for the requirements of money, volume, concept. Nanoshatl just for this outpost is optimal + trailer.
      1. Blackmokona
        Blackmokona 17 July 2020 09: 41
        Yes, and the current project, Ilona is still tearing them templates. Starship if you can completely change the space program.
        1. yehat2
          yehat2 25 September 2020 14: 22
          the starship has no chance of luck. The problem is in the design principles.
          Unless the approach is radically changed, this thing will never fly.
          1. indy424
            indy424 25 September 2020 14: 56
            Yes Yes. "Musk is not a head." it will be great to remember this prophecy in a year or two
            1. yehat2
              yehat2 25 September 2020 15: 14
              what does Musk have to do with it? He has his own team working on each project.
              on the dragon, the senior ship and a number of other projects, engineers create game.
          2. Blackmokona
            Blackmokona 25 September 2020 16: 10
            This thing has already risen into the air, a jump of 20 km is now being prepared. Development is very fast and efficient
            1. yehat2
              yehat2 25 September 2020 16: 14
              Do you at least understand what it means to misunderstand when the ship will explode and search for this point in field tests? This is the absence of any predictable reliability, the absence of normal backlash for modifications. The Americans developed Apollo much better, although there was a lot of cheating.
              1. Blackmokona
                Blackmokona 25 September 2020 19: 00
                I understand and know that this is a worldwide practice.
                For example, NASA was doing exactly the same with its new SLS rocket.
    2. UserGun
      UserGun 17 July 2020 08: 20
      Everything is simple. Banal competition really makes progress.
      1. Grazdanin
        Grazdanin 17 July 2020 09: 27
        Quote: UserGun
        Commonplace competition

        That's right X37 from Boeing has been in space for 10 years, you need 2 orbital aircraft for competition.
    3. Grazdanin
      Grazdanin 17 July 2020 09: 03
      And where is Ilon? He is on hype, but he is one of many. With Boeing, a lot more X-37 projects google.
      1. zwlad
        zwlad 17 July 2020 10: 22
        His truck flies and everything is worked out enough. Hitched a trailer and forward.
        And here they are only going to start the truck in 2021. And it is not known how he will fly and return.
        And then there’s still time to finish the project and only after that it will be possible to hook on a trailer to it.
        Although if in the country the dough is enough for several functionally identical projects, why not.
        1. Grazdanin
          Grazdanin 17 July 2020 10: 28
          X-37 in space in general 10 years. Musk has a small company, he wants to colonize Mars, all projects in space are aimed at this. The Pentagon needs obedient, efficient contractors. The mask in general this project is of little interest. The main thing that the Pentagon from SpaceX needs is cheap, frequent launches. When the task arises of mass sending orbiting planes into space, the speed of launch vehicle preparation will become a very important parameter.
          1. voyaka uh
            voyaka uh 17 July 2020 18: 11
            "The Pentagon needs obedient, efficient contractors" ///
            You correctly noticed it. Musk is very effective but very naughty. laughing
            He, like a cat, "walks by itself." And he became very rich (entered the top ten according to Forbes).
            And "the rich have their quirks."
            The Pentagon needs its own private space contractor. Small and dependent
            from military contracts. Boeing is too bulky without an effective host
            (shares - large packages - are fragmented among thousands of people).
            1. Grazdanin
              Grazdanin 17 July 2020 18: 19
              Yes. The best people / companies for the "state" who first and foremost want to make money. Patriots, ideological, dreamers are harmful. They are not understandable and not predictable.
              Boeing is too big, it loses to small companies in new projects, but is indispensable in mass production.
              Mask has his own goal, he goes to it, if he is with the state along the way, then it is good, if not, it does not matter.
        2. Grazdanin
          Grazdanin 17 July 2020 10: 40
          Quote: zwlad
          functionally identical projects

          You always need at least 2 contractors for one task, you can not depend on one. If Musk feels the strength, he will twist the hands of the Pentagon and NASA, and so he is just one of the contractors, no more and no less.
  3. Grazdanin
    Grazdanin 17 July 2020 09: 01
    Orbital aircraft need a “base” for refueling and changing weapons. In the future it will be a large station, although a number of such small “outposts” may be the best solution.
  4. Knell wardenheart
    Knell wardenheart 17 July 2020 12: 12
    We know, we know where they are digging))) This is such a neat step-by-step creep (like the Chinese bulk islands) to the postulate of "peaceful space" and "nuclear-free orbit". At first, such things will fly and be tested - everyone will remain silent, someone will slightly talk. Then on these things they will carry some kind of cargo to orbit - there are different microsatellites, overall layouts "very similar to rockets" -mag scheme. Then there will be some exercises with remote defeat of the out-of-order American apparatus descending into the atmosphere - and the racket by that time will be already admissible (suddenly). Then the Americans will get ahead of everyone and say-panky! And we do not know what the Russians are sending to orbit - but there is information that they have had weapons there for a long time! They will attach some muddy, mysterious footage - and then hop hop! And the project of the orbital military platform went.
    Probably we should update the treaties on outer space, while we still have a lump of authority in this area ..
    1. Grazdanin
      Grazdanin 17 July 2020 12: 32
      Quote: Knell Wardenheart
      At first such things will fly and be tested.

      Since 2010 fly
      Quote: Knell Wardenheart
      Then there will be some exercises with the remote defeat of a failed American apparatus

      There is a rocket since the late 80s, with F15 launched.
      Quote: Knell Wardenheart
      Russians are sent to orbit - but there is information that they have weapons there for a long time

      News has already passed that our companion investigated them, consider that they attacked.
      Quote: Knell Wardenheart
      went the project of the orbital military platform

      It will be in 23-24, when the ISS project is closed.

      Platforms will be for orbital aircraft, refuel and refit. X37 is already there, dream chaser is on its way. In 23-24 years, they can start mass production, Boeing and Lokhet Martin will not be refused.
      We have correctly described everything, only we are in the middle of the road already, within 3-4 years, everything officially starts. Cheap, quickly prepared rocket launchers will arrive in time. Platforms can be placed in the orbit of the Moon and the Earth, figs you will bring down.
      1. Knell wardenheart
        Knell wardenheart 17 July 2020 13: 02
        As for rockets, I don’t think that an atmospheric rocket is 100% suitable for storage in outer space. There you will need either a very deep revision, or even the creation of a different design. Of course, I'm not a specialist in this matter, but first of all the Americans are interested in intercepting the ICBM in creating such "space outposts". It is in this direction that the most serious distribution of the mutual value is the cost of a Sarmat missile with its bells and whistles and individual blocks, the cost of approximate damage if it reaches the cost of such an outpost with several interceptors. It is one thing to hit a non-maneuvering satellite with a known orbit; it is another thing with a spacecraft to hit an ICBM at the launch site (with many prelaunch unknown parameters and a higher reaction rate to the situation) (probably) kinetically.
        I hardly believe that such a system would be created from the priority of striking (in the set of the concept of Quick.Glob.Stroke, for example) on ground infrastructure. This is a completely different volume of missiles, this would imply a completely different mass of carrier, a larger number of such carriers and less proportionality of the damage-price.

        So I think that if missiles exist, it is still a big secret (which is logical in principle, given how carefully the Americans "bypass" the issue of intercepting our ICBMs).
        An alignment with the rapid deployment of such "outposts" would just be a very effective solution for leveling (in theory) a part of our Strategic Missile Forces - much more economical and reliable than huge platforms dangling in orbit for years. While I think they are adapting to this topic - playing up the situation on the border of neutrality - this is still an inspection-space-supply topic, and gigantic funds have not yet been used for everything that we mean, but some elements of the system, as you noticed, have already been run in - to assemble them into a single whole is a matter of will, means and little time.
        What are we going to cover in this situation - considering our focus on expensive heavy missiles, the state of our industry, economy and space technology - this is a good question ..
        1. Grazdanin
          Grazdanin 17 July 2020 13: 16
          Quote: Knell Wardenheart
          I think that an atmospheric rocket is 100% suitable for storage in outer space

          Of course not, a space rocket needs an oxidizing agent, modern anti-satellite rockets are at least 2-stage (1 works in the atmosphere, 2 in space). If a rocket is immediately placed in space, you need 1 stage.
          Quote: Knell Wardenheart
          An alignment with the quick removal of such "outposts" would just be a very effective solution for leveling

          Orbital planes and “outposts” do not cancel, but complement each other. Disposable outposts / satellites have their advantages, orbital planes have their own.
          Orbital planes also have the trick that you can place anything on them. Missiles, radars, sensors, lasers, rockets to strike the ground, etc. And it is not known what is inside him. Something has broken, then you need to go through, weapons need to be replaced, they land quietly, they do work, they are sent again.
        2. zwlad
          zwlad 17 July 2020 19: 23
          It is unlikely that technology allows kinetic ammunition from a spacecraft to get into an ICBM taking off. But it is quite possible to try to intercept it in space on a ballistic trajectory.
          Oh, it's not in vain that our atmospheric hypersound is concerned.
          1. Knell wardenheart
            Knell wardenheart 17 July 2020 21: 03
            Perhaps I just proceed from the fact that the Americans have long and purposefully been developing the technology of precisely kinetic interception. Probably, in the event of such a development of events, our most economical solution would be to develop solid-fuel "bogus" capable of throwing themselves up to the Karman line (or where there will be tentative selection and interception order). Other options are much less economical.
  5. Observer2014
    Observer2014 17 July 2020 18: 25
    Wow! But this is interesting. And even to say that very much, it’s nothing to say. It’s a no brainer that it looks like the Soviet "Spiral" This is not the point. Everything looks very much like a loitering munition, Americans from five years ago about this and They said that this will happen. Here you go. Moreover, the system is reusable, and with a long watch time in orbit.
    1. Grazdanin
      Grazdanin 17 July 2020 18: 34
      X37 has been flying in space for 10 years. He made 5-6 flights.
    2. l9jy
      l9jy 17 July 2020 23: 51
      this whole spiral has been ripped off from earlier American developments x-20 Dyna Soar, stop here already enough.
      1. Vadim237
        Vadim237 17 July 2020 23: 56
        X 20 structurally different device. And the creators of Chaser themselves admitted that they used the experience on Bor.
        1. vvbfhf
          vvbfhf 18 July 2020 00: 47
          North American X-15
  6. dfgfvvb
    dfgfvvb 17 July 2020 19: 58
    May America, a reborn nation, be blessed.
  7. Vadim237
    Vadim237 18 July 2020 00: 03
    In general, Americans are good fellows in the development of space systems, carriers, missions, manned spacecraft and everything related. "In 2021, the United States prepared for the first time to launch five newest rockets, writes Ars Technica.

    The publication estimated the probability of the launch of each of the carriers: Northrop Grumman Omega (capable of putting 5-10 tons of payload into geo-transition orbit) - medium, United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan-Centaur (14,4 tons) - medium-low, Boeing SLS ( about 20 tons) - low, Blue Origin New Glenn (13 tons) - low, SpaceX Super Heavy (21 tons) - low.

    Ars Technica also noted that in 2021, for the first time, the Japanese missile H3 (8 tons) and the European Ariane 6 (11,5 tons) should fly. The probability of this in the publication is estimated as average. The publication recalls that all of the above media (with the exception of Omega and Super Heavy) were supposed to fly in 2020.

    In July, Space News announced it received a Blue Origin ULA to test the first BE-4 rocket engine with Vulcan.

    Vulcan is being created to replace the Atlas 5 rocket, which is equipped with a Russian-made RD-180 engine. Two single-chamber BE-4s, installed on the first stage of the Vulcan (actually Atlas 6), together will develop more thrust than one two-chamber RD-180 of the first Atlas 5 stage. Unlike the RD-180, which runs on kerosene, the BE-4 uses methane. Blue Origin also plans to install the BE-4 on its own New Glenn rocket. "
  8. Charik
    Charik 18 July 2020 16: 54
    it seems that Rogozin will have to sell trampolines in Africa
    1. Vadim237
      Vadim237 18 July 2020 22: 43
      African countries are already ordering satellites from Russia, so the launch market will develop, as will the training of foreign cosmonauts, the launching of its satellites into civilian and military orbit, orbital tourism, missions to other planets, Russia will also launch the same, as well as participate in international missions, launches and supplies of equipment. Our space sphere will definitely not remain without work, but as we make a megawatt-class nuclear power plant, we will generally become world leaders in space energy for the development of the solar system.
      1. nickname7
        nickname7 30 August 2020 12: 02
        African countries are already ordering satellites from Russia,

        It's not true. The Angolan space program crashed (provided by Roskosmos), also Kazsat1 did not get in touch ... after which the customers reoriented to other manufacturers.
  9. ont65
    ont65 19 August 2020 15: 04
    The announcement of the development of an uninhabited station with a transport ship and at the same time explaining that the station will be manned (which is natural when carrying out experiments on board and a deliberately uncomplicated practically finished structure) does not really fit. Someone fell from an oak tree?