9 out of 10 doctors agree: A weekly dose of The Merge makes you smarter, taller, and better looking.
Rocket Cargo
The Air Force recently slapped a Vanguard sticker on its new Rocket Cargo program, an FY22 budget request to explore using rockets to deliver cargo. The goal is pretty ambitious though — deliver 100 tons in 1 hour anywhere on earth.

The idea has actually been around for generations, though we may now be in an era where technology has caught up with imagination. #commercialspace

We love the ambition, so we’ll start with the good.

The Good
Logistics is hard, and so is predicting the future needs of a deployed unit to keep the mission going. Having an easy button to press when the military needs a shortcut solution is a good feature to have.

Well, that was a short list.

The Bad
The time to load the rocket is not factored into the 1-hour goal. That’s a big asterisk given the supplies not only have to get shipped to the launchpad…they have to get loaded onto the rocket.

The rocket needs to be fueled too, which takes more time. Oh, you can’t refuel a rocket to quick-turn it for another mission like you can with an aircraft or ship.

The program’s 100-ton bumper sticker goal is way more complicated than shooting a single rocket. The highest-capacity operational rocket is SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which carries 70 tons.

Even then, there will always be a market for shipping outsized cargo that simple will not fit on top of the rocket. Turns out, shooting a tank into space and shooting a Tesla Roadster into space is not the same thing.

While the cost to access space has decreased 20X in the past decade, it still has a ways to go to make Rocket Cargo an economically viable alternative. FYI: Today it costs ~$1,200 per pound to put something into space.

The Ugly
OBTW, the flight signature of this rocket cargo vehicle may look eerily similar to a world-ending nuclear-tipped ICBM. This is one of the reasons DARPA’s Project FALCON (2003) and the Air Force’s ICBM-based Conventional Prompt Global Strike (2010) programs were canceled.

Even in the short hairs, a rocket deploying a cargo vessel may look just like a rocket deploying a hypersonic vehicle, which would put the decision calculus squarely in the hands of adversaries. “Oops, it looked like a missile to us.”

What Now
This sounds like more bad than good, but it's really too soon to tell. Like we said, we love the ambition and the Air Force is long overdue to go after these types of things. Let's hope Congress loves it too and funds the research.
In That Number

The number of vulnerabilities that hackers found in just 2 applications during the latest Hack the Army bug bounty challenge.
Trivia: Whose nugget is on the Purple Heart medal...and why?
On the Radar
The G7 summit happened this week, and will likely be remembered for two things. The first is the just-beamed-me-down-esque Start Trek vibe from their group photo paired with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s unfortunate resemblance to a redshirt. The second is for what they decided about space: 1) it's now a domain worthy of NATO’s Article 5 collective defense clause, and 2) they agreed to jointly develop a satellite-based quantum technology encryption network. 

The Navy finally plans to integrate the Air Force’s AGM-158 JASSM cruise missile onto its F/A-18E/F and F-35C fighters. The Air Force has an opportunity here: leverage Navy’s F-35C JASSM integration money and resources to get the JASSM onto Air Force F-35A. Oh, you didn’t realize the USAF F-35A doesn’t carry stand-off munitions?

This the US just ended its Boeing-initiated 17-year litigation with the EU over Airbus subsidies. Then the next day, the Air Force announced its Bridge Tanker Program . This is a non-developmental commercial derivative tanker to fill a capacity gap between today’s maligned Boeing KC-46 and a still-to-be-determined future Advanced Air Refueling Tanker. The only 2 companies in the world who can meet this requirement are…wait for it…Boeing and Airbus. This sets up a rematch from the original scandalous KC-X program (2003-2011) that has all the makings of a tankerized version of Rocky II.
This week the U.S. Army released a glitzy CGI video of its prototype Autonomous Multi-Domain Launcher (AML), which is really just a churched-up way of saying its an unmanned M142 HIMARS. Concept development is cool and garnering program support is important…but we're calling BS.

The video shows a prototype vehicle striking targets with a weapon that does not yet exist (PSM), with a seeker derivative still in development (PSM Increment 2 for moving maritime targets), while another prototype vehicle strikes a SAM at a range that no derivative of that weapon or launcher yet exists (PSM Increment 4--see the Saved Round below).

And for the love of God, ditch the Limp Bizkit-esque soundtrack.
They Said It
“Deploying new software to fighter aircraft in flight will be critical”

— a phrase in the Department of Defense’s newly-released OCONUS Cloud Strategy
Zoom In
Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) is one of the latest acronyms drawing scrutiny. The Pentagon is spending over a billion dollars a year trying to figure out just what JADC2 is. Zoom in here to read some background over a four-part series that starts asking the hard questions.
Saved Rounds
  • American Airlines partners with Vertical Aerospace to develop an eVTOL that can carry four passengers and a pilot at speeds up to 200 mph over a range of over 100 miles #AgilityPrimeNotNeeded
  • OneSky Flight announced the exact same plan above, but is doing it with Embraer’s four-passenger Eve eVTOL…and are looking to SPAC their eVTOL subdivision #AgilityPrimeDefinitlyNotNeeded
  • The Army’s Precision Strike Missile is still in development, but it already wants to double its range from 500km to 1,000km #whenrequirementsgoawry
  • Vanilla Unmanned is working with the Navy and SOCOM to militarize its ultra-endurance low-cost drone (sensors/comm nodes aloft for a week)
  • Nvidia is acquiring DeepMap, a high-definition mapping startup that makes some trippy urban cartography
  • The Pentagon grants the first airworthiness certification for a 3D-printed aircraft engine part
  • Copterpack debuts the first manned flight of its personal eVTOL pack
  • The Army taps L-3 and Raytheon to build prototypes for next-generation aerial COMINT and ELINT sensors that will go on HADES, the services’ still-to-be-determined fixed-wing ISR platform
  • Saudi Arabia researchers discovered an economically viable system to extract high-purity lithium from seawater (There is 5000x more lithium in seawater than in land)
  • Tyvak releases stunning Earth imagery from its shoe-box sized telescope satellite
  • The Air Force’s B-52 commercial re-engine program cost jumps 9 percent to $11 billion and it hasn’t even selected a contractor yet
  • Arctic Astronautics plans to launch a plywood cubesat into space this year for testing #woodsat
And finally…
  • Interesting: The Department of Energy will allocate $200M over the next 5 years for national labs to develop EV technology
  • Compelling: Ford and GM are allocating $65B (with a B) towards the same thing over the same time period, which is 365X more than the government’s effort
Share with Friends, Get Cool Stuff!
Have friends who'd love the Merge too? Give them your unique referral link (below) and start earning awesome rewards when they subscribe.

Your unique referral link:

You currently have referrals
The 5 Second Debrief
Trivia Answer: George Washington. In 1782, then-General Washington created the Badge of Military Merit for the Continental Army that comprised a piece of cloth in the shape of a purple heart. It fell out of use after the Revolutionary War. In 1932, the War Department replaced several random forms of combat-related wound recognition by creating the Purple Heart Medal, and declared it would be the official successor for Washington’s Badge of Military Merit.