Marines in Space

The idea of a space station designed specifically for the military may sound like science fiction, but looking at the system in full, if it were somehow to become technologically feasible whatever military decided to utilize it first would have a significant tactical advantage.  But will marines in space ever be cost effective enough to truly implement?

Imagine hundreds of capsules falling from the sky out of nowhere and military forces pouring out.  Such an army no doubt would belong on the front page of a science fiction comic book, but could it become a reality?  Currently any soldiers sent into space do so because they are necessary for military research and not deployment on the planet’s surface.  But even a small group residing in a base around orbit would essentially be able to enter any country and cross any border with almost no chance of being detected.  Such a military force could be used to destroy installations in enemy territory, but there are thousands of avenues for humanitarian protection as well.

With current infrastructure, airlifting medical supplies, fuel, and manpower into any given area in need requires time, resources, and the possible traveling through hostile territory.  And while these are not a problem currently, in a future war with a technologically advanced nation it could be devastatingly difficult.  But with a platoon of marines, doctors, engineers, and even diplomats in a vast orbiting platform, the advantage would be the use of drop pods to launch units to the ground to drop in at precise targets for either support or combat.  And while such units may be limited, the psychological effect such a system could have would no doubt be significant.

But would it be cost effective?  Could we see soldiers and aid workers in space any time soon?  If so, such a system is being created in utter secrecy and with considerable funding.  As it stands, the cost per pound to put something into space is at its most efficient around $1,200.  This would mean a 200 lb soldier without gear would cost approximately $2,400,000 just to put into orbit.  Add their gear, food, the inevitable exercise equipment required to keep them fit, and the cost of whatever system used to bring them back to Earth and you’re already looking at a staggering price tag.  But compare this to the current price tag of almost $500,000 per soldier that goes into battle today.  Perhaps some military leaders would consider the tactical advantage worth the cost.

Of course there would be other limitations as well.  Soldiers would only have a brief window of combat effectiveness before their muscles atrophied.  They would need an incredibly accurate deployment system.  And their ability to drop into enemy territory would hinge partially on the position of the orbital craft itself.

So maybe the system isn’t likely to be proposed for the next ten years and considered seriously.  But if not human soldiers, what about UAVs and robotic drones?