WASHINGTON — The Defense Innovation Unit is seeking proposals from commercial launch companies that can provide “responsive and precise point-to-point delivery of cargo to, from, and through space.”

The solicitation, published June 30, asks companies to submit proposals by July 17. 

DIU, a DoD agency created to bring commercially developed technology into military programs, is looking for commercial options to use space launch vehicles to move a “wide variety of cargo where it is needed, when it is needed.”

Companies selected for this project will have to demonstrate autonomous cargo delivery in at least one of three modes: from Earth to a designated orbit, return from space to Earth to a precise point of recovery, and through space from one orbit to another.

DIU said the goal is to assess the capabilities of commercial launch vehicles to support DoD in space logistics operations. 

Other military organizations also are looking at the use of rockets for responsive launch and cargo deliveries. A project to evaluate using rockets for point-to-point transportation is being pursued by the Air Force and the U.S. Transportation Command. The U.S. Space Force, meanwhile, is overseeing a “responsive space” initiative to assess how commercial rockets could be called up on short notice during national security emergencies.  

“The ability to rapidly re-constitute space-based capabilities or re-supply payloads or cargo at precise locations for time-sensitive logistics (in-space or terrestrially) is a critical but presently non-existent capability,” said DIU.

With the emergence of in-space manufacturing and in-orbit activities requiring logistics support, “there is a need to deliver and return payloads and cargo accurately, safely and on-demand,” DIU said. 

Proposals should be based on mature technologies so bidders can “show key elements of a brassboard or flight-ready hardware within 90 days of award,” said DIU. The concept has to be “minimally viable and flight-ready within 24 months.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...