About five months after President Donald Trump signed a policy directive for the United States military to create what would become a fifth branch known as Space Force, as Space.com reported, the Pentagon has put out a call for proposals to be build a military space station. This space station is one that could be staffed a crew of military astronauts at some point in the future.
The Pentagon, through its Defense Innovation Unit, published a “solicitation brief” last week, seeking ideas on how to build what it called “a self-contained and free flying orbital outpost,” according to the notice, which was first spotted by the military news site Breaking Defense. But at least at first, the Pentagon is looking for ideas on how to build an extremely small spacecraft that would be operated entirely by artificial intelligence algorithms.
According to the brief published online by the DIU, the space station now under consideration would have an internal volume of only one cubic meter, and a pressurization of “zero to one atmosphere.” In other words, the space station would contain little — if any — breathable air.
The “zero to one” requirement, combined with the craft’s extremely small internal capacity, indicate “that it will not be designed for human space travel,” according to a report by United Press International.
But just because the space station that the Pentagon has in mind looks like it will be nothing but a robot, that does not mean it will not be upgraded at some point in the future to accommodate a human crew. The Pentagon “has tentative plans to upgrade the station so it can support life,” according to a report by Futurism — giving the Pentagon “the unsettling ability to keep militarized crews operating in space.”
A manned military space station still appears to be a long way off, based on the specs outlined in the DIU solicitation. One Air Force space official told Breaking Defense that the “zero to one” pressurization effectively rules out life on any kind, human or otherwise, on the proposed space station.
“In short, this platform would be small, dark, cold, and without any life support!” the official told Breaking Defense reporter Theresa Hitchens.
At least for now, any Pentagon-run space station would fall under the United Nations “Outer Space Treaty” of 1967, which expressly bans “nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction” on any object placed in orbit around Earth. The treaty does not prevent all military operations in space, however.