...And The Air Force, Too
Any of these private companies that actually get hardware into sub-space may have to dodge military devices. The Air Force is planning to launch unmanned aircraft that will exploit the altitudes above 65,000 feet for simple tasks like communications relay within the next year. Helium-filled balloons (sound familiar?) would likely get that job. But over the next decade, more sophisticated aircraft could do reconnaissance and other battle-support work. "This is not a passing fad or fancy," Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf told Reuters. Leaf also stressed there are no plans to put weapons on the aircraft. Rather, they will most likely function as electronic relay, sensing and broadcast stations, augmenting existing systems and creating localized communications and intelligence-gathering capabilities. Leaf said there are about 10 concepts under review and he noted that something called the Near Space Maneuvering Vehicle is to be tested in Oregon within weeks.