WASHINGTON — Raytheon Intelligence & Space announced Jan. 17 it won a four-year, $8.7 million contract to develop mission planning software for the U.S. Air Force rocket cargo program.

The company will design a planning tool that would allow the Air Force to coordinate a rocket cargo mission. The Air Force’s rocket cargo project is studying the possible use of commercial space launch vehicles to transport humanitarian aid and other cargo payloads around the world. Several commercial space firms have signed agreements with the U.S. military to share data and conduct simulations. 

A division of Raytheon based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Raytheon BBN will identify and develop rocket cargo workflows and processes, and design human-machine interfaces, the company said. It will also propose ways to coordinate operations between government and commercial organizations.

“The tool we create must enable the Air Force to plan, coordinate and conduct a rocket cargo mission within hours,” said Beth DePass, Raytheon BBN principal investigator for the project. 

“At its core, this is a logistics challenge of epic proportions. Although the cargo would initially be pre-packaged and stored at the launch site for rapid loading, there are still tremendous challenges with how the DoD will safely load, launch, and deliver under very tight timing constraints,” she said. 

Challenges include weather conditions, launch approvals and many other variables, said DePass.  

Raytheon BBN has developed other logistics and planning tools for the Department of Defense for aerial delivery of mission cargo and humanitarian aid.

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...