The United States is moving toward the production of spacecraft, and the Pentagon is working to make sure it gets there in a way that won’t break the law.
A Pentagon spokesman said Thursday that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has developed a prototype for a “spacecraft production facility.”
The prototype is an air-breathing airlock with an automated robotic arm and an automatic engine that can turn itself on and off at will, the spokesman said.
The Pentagon plans to launch a commercial spacecraft manufacturing company by 2021, the first time the Pentagon has ever done so.
The company will be a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Aerojet Rocketdyne Ltd., according to a government document outlining the plan.
The document also shows that the military is in the process of acquiring the Aerojet rocket company’s air-filled rocket engine, the company said.
Lockheed and Aerojet are also building a prototype spaceplane that is expected to launch astronauts to the International Space Station, the document said.
“We have no plans to produce our own vehicles in our own facilities,” the Defense Department spokesman said in a statement.
“We intend to build our own manufacturing facilities to meet the needs of our military customers.”
The Pentagon has also developed a small spaceplane and a small satellite, which could carry astronauts to low-Earth orbit, the Pentagon said.