STAR WARS & REACTORS IN SPACE
A CANADIAN VIEW
Written in 1986 by Michael Bein
It has been eight years since the Soviet nuclear- powered spy satellite Cosmos 954 crashed in northern Canada, alerting the world to the dangers of putting nuclear reactors into space. But despite U.S. President Carter's subsequent call for a ban on nuclear materials in orbit and despite a similar Canadian initiative leading to drawn out diplomatic wranglings at the U.N., increasing numbers of nuclear satellites still seem destined to be launched. In the U.S., a new generation of larger reactors for space is under development, the first of which could be ready to be Shuttled into orbit by the early 1990's.
Though NASA envisions many uses for the new reactors -- from rocket propulsion to baseload power for space factories -- it is the military that has kept their development alive. Through its Strategic Defence Initiative Organization, set up to fund "Star Wars" research into President Reagan's "non-nuclear defensive shield", the Department of Defense has agreed to pay half the $300 million projected cost of designing, building, and ground testing the new reactor by 1991. SDIO sees nuclear reactors as a promising source of power for future space weapons. Whether or not a "Star Wars" defense ever gets built, planned SDI research will result in more nuclear reactors in space.
The disintegration of Cosmos 954 over the Northwest Territories on Jan. 24, 1978, thrust the issue of nuclear powered satellites (NPS) into the political spotlight. For the first several weeks the story assumed dramatic proportions, as nightly newscasts pictured the airborne and ground search and recovery operations set against a backdrop of sub-arctic winter. CBC camera crews were aboard as Hercules aircraft, specially outfitted with radiation sensors, criss-crossed the frozen wilderness looking for "hot spots". Parka-clad decontamination teams trudged through the snow to locate radioactive bits of the downed satellite and to package and remove them in specially shielded cannisters. Helicopters, snowmobiles, even dog-teams played their parts in "Operation Morning Light", as the joint Canada-U.S. clean-up effort came to be known.
Operation Morning Light continued into October and eventually resulted, according to Canada's Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB), in the estimated recovery of 0.1 percent of Cosmos 954's nuclear core. (1) Tens of millions of pepper-flake sized radioactive particles, comprising a fifth to a quarter of the core, remained scattered over a 124,000 square kilometer "footprint" (2), stretching southward from Great Slave Lake into northern Saskatchewan and Alberta. The clean-up of these from populated and frequented areas and the recovery of a number of large satellite fragments from the more remote bush cost Canada nearly $14,000,000 (2), of which only $3,000,000 was later recovered from the USSR. (3) Obviously a far more comprehensive clean-up would have been deemed necessary had Cosmos 954 come down over a large city or a major agricultural region like the prairie wheat belt to the south, over which the satellite in fact flew on its penultimate orbit.
Within a week after the Cosmos crash, U.S. President Carter called for "an agreement with the Soviets to prohibit earth-orbiting satellites with atomic radiation material in them." (4) Two weeks later, Canadian Minister for External Affairs Don Jamieson sent up his own a trial balloon about "some kind of nuclear-free zone in near outer space," (5) and Canada proposed establishment at the U.N. of a working group of technical experts to look into the whole question of nuclear powered satellites. (6, 7) Sweden called for a moratorium on NPS launchings while the working group was to deliberate (7).
The Soviet Union, however, staunchly refused to recognize any need for new principles governing nuclear power in space and, at first, tried to block discussions at the U.N. (8, 9) But by July of 1978, due to the pressure of almost unanimous agreement among non-East-bloc nations, the Soviets relented and agreed to the establishment of a working group. (10) Without acknowledging any need for new rules or accepting responsibility for Cosmos 954, the Soviet Union, five months after the crash, finally admitted that the subject of nuclear power sources in space was at least important enough to talk about.
In November of the same year, the General Assembly authorized its Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) to establish a technical working group. The assembly also passed a resolution requesting that a country whose NPS is about to fall notify others of the impending danger. (11) Though this was a step forward (in view of the fact that the U.S., and not the USSR, had first warned Canada about Cosmos 954), it is the only substantive resolution on NPS the General Assembly has yet adopted.
The newly established working group had no difficulty agreeing in principle that "NPS can be used safely in outer space, provided that all necessary safety requirements are met." (12) Unfortunately, to this day there has been only vague consensus among the national delegations as to what should constitute "necessary safety requirements", and the agreement in principle is purely rhetorical.
Arguments have persisted at the U.N. over whether safety regulations regarding nuclear power in space should be mandatory or voluntary, or whether they are even needed at all. And much disagreement remains about what the proposed rules should include. For example, should countries planning to launch nuclear powered satellites be obliged to give prior notification to other nations? Both superpowers have repeatedly resisted proposals by Canada, Sweden, Denmark, West Germany and others for some form of international notification before or at time of NPS launch. (13, 36) President Carter's early call for a ban on nuclear materials in space has never been repeated, and the Americans, like the Soviets, appear to be keeping their options open for secret military nuclear missions in space.
The U.S. space nuclear program has always had close ties and even owes its existence to the military. Officially "terminated" in the mid 1970's after expenditure of more than $1.4 billion for lack of concrete NASA mission requirements, the program was revived and re-funded as a result of Air Force interest in new power sources for space-based radar. (14)
Today, the U.S. is developing, according to a Department of Energy (DOE) press release, "a compact nuclear power system that will provide a safe and highly reliable source of hundreds of kilowatts of electric power for a broad range of civilian and military space applications, including the Strategic Defense Initiative, in the early to mid-1990's and beyond." (15) This joint project of DOE, SDIO, and NASA, which got underway in 1983, has moved into its $300 million second phase: construction and ground testing of the new "SP-100" reactor by 1991 at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state. (16) The SP-100 will be designed to be carried aloft in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle and to generate 300 kilowatts of electricity in space. (17, 18) DOE and SDIO are splitting the cost of phase two, with NASA playing an advisory role until the later, flight phases. (19) According to a senior DOE official involved with the program, "All the near term applications are military." (20)
In comparison, the largest U.S. power supply ever flown in space was Skylab's 12 kilowatt solar cell array in 1973. Soviet nuclear Radar Ocean Reconnaissance Satellites (RORSATs) like Cosmos 954 or Cosmos 1402 (which disintegrated over the South Atlantic in 1983) reportedly have used up to 20 kilowatts of electricity. (21) A typical large earthborne commercial power reactor, on the other hand, generates several hundred thousand kilowatts, while SDI ultimately might require an amount of energy equal to "a substantial fraction of the output of the eastern U.S. power grid," according to one SDI official. (22)
Some 50 spacecraft carrying nuclear power sources (either bona fide nuclear fission reactors, or less powerful "radioisotope thermoelectric generators" powered by the decay heat of plutonium) have been launched by the superpowers. Of these, at least eight have come down unexpectedly over various parts of the earth. (23, 30) One was a U.S. navigational satellite which in 1964 failed to achieve orbit and dispersed its entire plutonium-238 inventory into the stratosphere above the Indian Ocean. This incident alone resulted in a near tripling of the global fallout of Pu-238. (24)
Another radioisotope power pack, this one from the lunar module of the aborted Apollo 13 moon-landing mission, lies intact at the bottom of the 6-km deep Tonga Trench in the South Pacific, where it fell from the sky in 1970. (25, 26, 30) A number of major American space successes, including the Apollo moonshots and the Voyager unmanned missions to the outer planets, have relied on radiosotope power sources. Until the recent Challenger disaster postponed all NASA's plans, a plutonium power pack was scheduled for May 1986 launch via Space Shuttle as part of the Galileo probe to orbit the planet Jupiter. (26, 27)
The only U.S. satellite thus far to carry a nuclear fission reactor failed in 1965 after 43 days aloft and was subsequently boosted into a 4000-year orbit in order that its radioactivity might have time to decay to safer levels before it descends to earth. (23, 28, 29) Injection into higher orbit is the method of reactor "disposal" preferred by both the American and Soviet programs. (26, 29, 30) Both the Cosmos 954 and Cosmos 1402 accidents are blamed on failures of the rocket systems that should have boosted these satellites into long-lived orbits. (26)
Most of the concern expressed at the U.N. has focussed on NPS in low orbits of less than 300 to 500 years duration, too short for fission products to decay away sufficiently. The U.S.'s SP-100 Program, accordingly, has adopted the policy of not operating the reactor unless it is in a stable orbit with at least a 300 year life span (more than 520 kilometers high). (26) However, it isn't yet clear at what altitude the military will want to operate its nuclear-powered Star Wars battle stations. And, like the Soviets, whose nuclear RORSATs are shot into orbits only 240 kilometers high, the Americans are studying how to engineer the controlled breakup of satellites during re-entry from low orbit should booster systems fail. (26, 29)
The official U.S. "Nuclear Safety Criteria and Specifications for Space Nuclear Reactors" (31) allow for "short-lived orbit missions" so long as a "reentry core dispersal capability" is provided, apparently to ensure that no large radioactive fragments reach the ground intact. This contrasts with Canada's position at the U.N. that "in principle ... nuclear reactors should not be used in low earth orbit." (32)
Regarding the best form of dispersal upon re-entry, a 1979 DOE-commissioned safety study found that "break-up of the reactor into non-respirable particles ... is preferable to uncontrolled intact re-entry or to high altitude vaporization." (26, 29) In other words, break-up into pepper-flake sized particles like those produced by Cosmos 954 is the best (as well as the most likely) form of reentry. This finding led one U.S. official to endorse such break-up as "an acceptable backup option" should high-orbit disposal fail. (26) However, certain assumptions of the 1979 study have since been called into question, and the whole dispersal issue today is officially under review. (20)
Although the American planners have obviously been concerned enough about safety to draft general criteria and institute a three-step, multi-agency review process that must be completed before each launch (31), there are a number of weaknesses in the U.S. regulatory system vis a vis NPS. First of all, there is no licensing by an independent authority like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the watchdog of America's commercial nuclear power industry. All the nuclear missions flown to date have been classed as research devices and have therefore been exempted from licensing under a provision of the Atomic Energy Act. (14) DOE, meanwhile, reserves the right to approve deviations from the published safety criteria. (31) And, perhaps most importantly, there is no provision for public participation in the safety review process.
Unlike commercial nuclear plants, which have a small probability of catastrophic failure, due to the presence of carefully engineered redundant safety systems, each orbiting nuclear reactor is virtually certain to undergo a major loss of containment upon its inevitable plunge to earth. (Unless future generations are to be saddled with the task of retrieving or re-boosting the worn out NPSs of today.) Even after several hundred or thousand years, certain radioactive substances (alpha-emitters) will remain on board in significant quantities, even though general radiation levels will substantially subside. The toxicity of these long-lived carcinogens is a contentious issue among medical experts, and it is possible that prevailing attitudes as to the safety even of high-orbit missions will someday have to be revised.
Meanwhile, the U.S. space reactor program forges ahead, spurred on by Star Wars dreams of electrically driven particle beam weapons, high-velocity anti-missile "rail guns", and radar powerful enough to track Russian submarines beneath the sea. Soviet RORSATs like Cosmos 954 also continue to circle above. (33)
Against this backdrop, there exists only a piteously weak international regulatory regime, consisting mainly of a procedure for notifying others when one's own NPS is about to fall. Despite recent official recognition by Canada and other delegations that "debris from re-entering satellites could become the chief source of artificial radionuclides [i.e. atomic fallout] in the atmosphere in the next century," (34) eight years after Cosmos 954, the world body is still "just beginning to deal with legal principles" and "trying to pin down general ideas," according to a Canadian representative to UNCOPUOS. (35)
In order to reach some kind of agreement, Canada has even expressed official willingness to compromise on its principle of opposition to low-orbit NPS and "consider a specific exception for national security reasons," on condition that "states be obliged to announce in advance that they would be using reactors in low-earth orbit." (36) Washington and Moscow have refused to agree.
Thus, the U.N. remains deadlocked. A treaty, even by the most optimistic accounts, is still some five years down the road. The major opportunity afforded by Cosmos 954 for a historic breakthrough in the protection of the outer space environment has all but slipped away. Meanwhile, both superpowers are jealously guarding the right to keep silent about number and nature of nuclear powered satellites that may one day circle above.
- (1) AECB, May 1980, Cosmos 954: The Occurrence and Nature of Recovered Debris, INFO-0006, p. 35.
- (2) AECB, Oct. 22, 1980, News Release 80-21, "AECB Publishes Summary Report on Cosmos 954 Satellite Crash".
- (3) Dept. of External Affairs, April 2, 1981, Release 27, "Canada and USSR Settle Claim for Damages Caused by 'Cosmos 954'".
- (4) New York Times, Jan. 31, 1978, "Carter asks ban on nuclear satellites".
- (5) Vancouver Sun, Feb. 13, 1978, "Canada to lobby world body to create nuclear-free zone in near outer space".
- (6) Dept. of External Affairs, Feb. 13, 1978, "Use of Nuclear-Power Sources on Outer Space", statement by U.N. Ambassador William H. Barton to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
- (7) Winnipeg Free Press, Feb. 17, 1978, "Canadian envoy to UN predicts long wait for nuclear space rules".
- (8) Globe and Mail, Feb. 15, 1978, "Russian defends nuclear satellites", p. 44.
- (9) Montreal Star, Mar. 2, 1978, "Canada scores moral victory in UN debate on Cosmos", p. A7.
- (10) Ottawa Journal, Jul. 6, 1978, "Soviets yield point on Cosmos-954".
- (11) General Assembly, Nov. 10, 1978, Resolution 33/16.
- (12) General Assembly, Feb. 12, 1980, Report on the Working Group on the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space on the Work of its Second Session, A/AC.105/C.1/L.120, p. 6.
- (13) General Assembly, Jan. 16, 1980, Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Legal Sub-Committee, Review of Existing International Law Relevant to Outer Space Activities ..., A/AC.105/C.2/14.
- (14) Broad, William J., "Nuclear Power for Militarization of Space", Science, Vol. 218, Dec. 17, 1982, pp. 1199-1201.
- (15) DOENews, Aug. 2, 1985, "SP-100 Space Reactor Power Concept Selected", U.S. Dept. of Energy press release R-85-092.
- (16) DOE press release, Nov. 22, 1985.
- (17) Aviation Week and Space Technology, Jan. 21, 1985, p. 11.
- (18) Dornheim, Michael A., "Space-Based Nuclear Power Projects Near Critical Juncture", Aviation Week and Space Technology, Jan. 27, 1985, p. 89.
- (19) Interview with Dan Butler, DOE News Media Contact, Dec. 12, 1985.
- (20) Interview with Earl J. Wahlquist, Acting Director, Division of Defense Energy Projects, Office of Nuclear Energy, DOE, Feb. 27, 1986.
- (21) Broad, William J., "Despite Dangers of Nuclear Satellites, Their Allure Persists for Superpowers", New York Times, Jan. 25, 1983, p. C1.
- (22) Ottawa Citizen, Apr. 12, 1986, "U.S. planning to put nuclear reactors into space". (Washington Post wire story quotes SDI official James Ionson.)
- (23) Aftergood, Steven, "Nuclear space mishaps and Star Wars", Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Oct. 1986, p. 40.
- (24) Hardy, E.P. et al., "Global Inventory and Distribution of Fallout Plutonium", Nature, Vol. 241, Feb. 16, 1973, p. 197.
- (25) Finn, Daniel P., "Nuclear Satellites: Why Has the Government Downplayed Their Risks?", Environment, Vol. 26, No. 1, Jan./Feb. 1984, p. 16.
- (26) Buden, David and J. Al Sullivan, "Nuclear Reactors: Powering Our Space Future", Environment, Vol. 26, No. 1, Jan./Feb. 1984.
- (27) Time, Feb. 10, 1986, "Putting the Future on Hold", p. 36.
- (28) Lay, Fernando, "Nuclear technology in outer space", Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Sept. 1979, p. 28.
- (29) Buden, David and Gary L. Bennett, "On the Use of Nuclear Reactors in Space", Physics Bulletin, Vol. 33, 1982.
- (30) Broad, William J., "Satellite's Fuel Core Falls 'Harmlessly'", New York Times, Feb. 18, 1983, p. C1.
- (31) U.S. DOE, "Nuclear Safety Criteria and Specifications for Space Nuclear Reactors", OSNP-1, Revision 0, Aug. 1982.
- (32) General Assembly, Mar. 30, 1984, Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Legal Sub-Committee, Summary Record of the 405th Meeting, A/AC.105/C.2/ SR.405.
- (33) Reese, R. Townsend and Charles P. Vick, "Soviet Nuclear Powered Satellites", Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 1983, Vol. 36, pp. 457-462.
- (34) General Assembly, Jan. 28, 1985, Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Scientific and Technical Sub-Committee, Working Group on the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space, A/AC.105/C.1/WG.5/L.17/Add.2. (Canadian working paper prepared by Dr. Bliss L. Tracy, Radiation Protection Bureau, Health and Welfare Canada.) This conclusion was repeated verbatim in the Report of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee on the Work of Its Twenty-Second Session, Feb. 28, 1985, A/AC.105/351, Annex II.
- (35) Interview with Roger Eaton, Health and Welfare Canada, Mar. 3, 1986.
- (36) General Assembly, Feb. 12, 1982, Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Legal Sub-Committee, Summary Record of the 368th Meeting, A/AC.105/C.2/ SR.368.
Interview with Bruce Gagnon
The administration's proposal for human space exploration is designed to project U.S. military power into the skies."Mankind is drawn to the heavens for the same reason we were once drawn into unknown lands and across the open sea. We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives, and lifts our national spirit. So let us continue the journey." With these words, President Bush unveiled a plan in January to establish a permanent base on the moon for use as a launching pad for missions to Mars. Dollars & Sense asked Bruce Gagnon, the coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, to explain the earthly motives behind the administration's celestial designs. - Adria Scharf
Dollars & Sense: Why did George W. Bush announce this new initiative now, in the face of a historic budget deficit?
Bruce Gagnon: The timing has to do with fear he won't be re-elected. The idea is to get these programs institutionalized—embedded into the budget—before he leaves office. Second is the fear that China, which recently launched an astronaut into space, will beat us to the moon. Whoever has bases on the moon will be able to control the "earth-moon gravity well"—the pathway between the moon and earth. The administration wants to gain control over the shipping lanes there and back before any other country does so first. The moon is also the gateway to cheaper space exploration beyond. Spacecraft built on the moon lift off using less energy because of the lower gravity. So controlling the moon would give the U.S. control over getting elsewhere.
D&S: Why establish "shipping lanes" to the moon?
BG: Helium-3 [an isotope of ordinary helium], found in lunar soil, could become a substitute for dwindling fossil fuels. Some see it as the energy source of the future. It would be used in fusion reactors. Helium-3 is one of the reasons the United States never signed the 1979 U.N. moon treaty, which says no one can claim ownership of the moon or have bases there. It's like a modern-day gold rush, but helium-3 could be far more valuable than gold.
Read Air Force Space Command's "Strategic Master Plan-FY06 and Beyond." It says: "While our ultimate goals are truly to 'exploit' space … we cannot fully 'exploit' that medium until we first 'control' it." The document outlines a 25-year plan to sustain, modernize, and maximize war-fighting capability in space. It also says: "Military forces have always viewed the 'high ground' position as one of dominance and warfare advantage … This capability is the ultimate high ground of U.S. military operations … Our charter is to rapidly obtain and maintain space superiority … ."
D&S: Is a "Star Wars"-type "strategic defense system" part of these plans?
BG: Bush's fiscal 2005 budget includes $47 million for technological development on an advanced, lightweight, space-based missile interceptor, to be developed by the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, NASA's Project Prometheus is developing nuclear-powered rocket engines. The nuclear engines will be used to provide power for another initiative, the space-based laser, which the Pentagon calls the "Death Star." The idea is to have a constellation of 25 to 40 orbiting battle stations powered by nuclear reactors knocking out others' satellites with lasers. Ultimately their dream is to hit targets on the earth as well. Because projecting a laser requires huge power, they need a way to refuel. So the battle stations would have nuclear reactors on them. The problem is, inevitably they'll start tumbling back to earth like the Columbia shuttle did last year, burning up on re-entry.
Both the missile interceptor and the death star laser are designed to be used offensively. None of this is really about defense. It's about controlling space, dominating space, and denying others access to space.
D&S: How does Mars figure in to the president's initiative?
BG: They believe they'll find magnesium, cobalt, and uranium there. The Mars Exploration Rovers are not looking for the origins of life. They're doing soil identification. NASA has said it hopes to have mining colonies established on Mars by 2025. New rocket technologies will be required to make it cost effective to haul mineral resources back to earth. Listen carefully to the language in Bush's speech, and you'll hear him talk about new "propulsion" technologies. That's code for nuclear-powered rockets.
The rovers already on Mars are themselves also powered in part by plutonium. Project Prometheus is working on developing many more nuclear missions. These planned nuclear-powered mining colonies will mean a massive increase in launches of nuclear materials into space, on rockets that have a historic 10% failure rate.
D&S: How risky was the launching of the Mars rovers, and have any accidents involving nuclear materials in space already occurred?
BG: All rocket launches are risky. Launch explosions happen. Multiple event failures happen. As you increase the number of launches, the risk of a major disaster increases. We've already had bad accidents involving nuclear power in space. In 1996, a Russian Mars mission with a half-pound of plutonium fell back to earth soon after its launch, raining debris over the mountains of Chile and Bolivia. In 1964, a U.S. military satellite powered by 2.1 pounds of plutonium fell back to earth, burned up on re-entry, and spread radioactive nuclear particles into the atmosphere, where they scattered globally. Dr. John Gofman, professor emeritus of molecular and cell biology at the University of California-Berkeley, believes this is a cause of the increase in cancers around the world since the 1960s. According to a NASA environmental impact statement for the 1997 Cassini Space Mission, which had 72 pounds of plutonium on board, a launch accident could have released plutonium over a 60-mile radius.
When Bush took office, he appointed Sean O'Keefe as head of NASA. O'Keefe, who used to work for Dick Cheney in the Department of Defense, and served as Secretary of the Navy under Bush senior, is a big proponent of nuclear propulsion.
D&S: President Bush seemed to downplay the cost of his space initiative, announcing just $1 billion in new funding, plus plans to reallocate $11 billion from existing NASA programs. What do you make of these figures?
BG: His plan is to get this rolling by embedding technological development into the budget now. The real money will kick in after he's gone. The collective cost estimates go back to his father, who had similar plans to send humans to the moon and on to Mars. In 1989 the plan was costed out at $400 billion. Today experts estimate it will cost $500 to $750 billion, but NASA space missions have a historic 100% cost overrun ratio. The International Space Station was even worse. Originally projected to cost $10 billion, it has cost $100 billion.
In the next five years, they plan to spend over $55.1 billion just for Star Wars technological developments. That doesn't count nuclear projects embedded in the Department of Energy (DOE) budget, or the costs of developing a whole new generation of satellites. It doesn't count other NASA projects, National Security Agency projects, or the costs of satellite development by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) [a Department of Defense agency that designs and operates spy satellites]. The funding is allocated and buried in different budgets. Some is hidden in civilian or dual-use programs. You start adding it all up—and it amounts to an enormous expenditure.
Plus, when they finish constructing the space station, they're planning to close it down and shift the funding over. We'll ride the shuttle a couple more years, then shut it down. Each shuttle flight costs about $500 million.
A major aerospace industry publication, Space News, published an editorial in 1999 arguing that the Mars missions are affordable. It argued that the place to look for funding is entitlement programs. That's Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, what's left of welfare. The aerospace industry has identified these programs for financing and is going after them.
D&S: What aerospace corporations and Pentagon military contractors stand to benefit from this and how?
BG: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman are the big four. They'd all profit from a space arms race. Star Wars will be the largest industrial project in the history of the planet earth. These are the same corporations that have brought us endless war here on earth, and now they want to move this madness into the heavens. If they get away with it, there will be no money left for anything else. And NASA has said that once the aerospace industry can successfully mine the sky for profit, the whole program will be privatized.
D&S: What are the connections between the aerospace industry and the nuclear industry?
BG: It's the same gang—military contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin are working on developing nuclear generators and reactors for use in space, and space weapons. Corporations in the nuclear industry do a lot of work with the DOE, which recently announced that it would expand production capability at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee by allocating $100 million to the lab to meet the growing demand for space nuclear power. The DOE owns the lab and contracts it out to aerospace corporations.
We know the DOE has a terrible history of contaminating local communities and exposing workers to radioactive material. So we should be worried about nuclear-powered militarization of space not only because of space accidents, but because of the whole production process and its effects on workers and communities.
Think of the 15th century, when Spain sent Columbus to look for the "New World." Once Spain had staked claim to the "New World," it had to spend 100 years building an armada in order to maintain control over the wealth of resources, the sea routes, and the emerging markets. This helped to create the global war system. NASA and the Pentagon are doing the same long-range planning today.
GN’s 2007 Space Conference in Germany
March 23-24, 2007
Darmstadt, located close to Frankfurt am Main, hosts two major European and one US space facilities: the European Space Operation Centre (ESOC), which plans and conducts satellite operations for the European Space Agency; the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), which delivers weather and climate-related satellite data and images; and on the outskirts of the town a US spy station, which is part of the global Echelon surveillance system.
Two days of discussion, strategizing, planning, and protest will inform us all about the increasing role of space in the European Security and Defense Policy, about NATO and European missile defense plans, how these are related to US plans to dominate space in order to control the Earth, and what we can do about it.
The Role of the European Union in the Militarization of Space
Darmstadt, located close to Frankfurt am Main in Germany, hosts two major European and one US space facilities: the European Space Operation Centre (ESOC), which plans and conducts satellite operations for the European Space Agency; the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), which delivers weather and climate-related satellite data and images; and on the outskirts of the town a US spy station, which is part of the global Echelon surveillance system.
Two days of discussion, strategizing, planning, and protest will inform us all about the increasing role of space in the European Security and Defense Policy, about NATO and European missile defense plans, how these are related to US plans to dominate space in order to control the Earth, and what we can do about it.
Main conference venue:
Please register in advance!/Bitte rechtzeitig anmelden!
- Bruce Gagnon, Global Network, PO Box 652, Brunswick, ME 04011, USA;
- Mobile conference phone – March 22-24 ONLY: +49-171-630 13 14
(download pdf version - 184KB file)
The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate develops high-energy lasers, high-power microwaves, and other directed energy technologies for the United States Air Force and the Department of Defense . The Directorate is also involved with advanced optics and imaging technologies to improve the nation’s ability to precisely project these directed energies at the speed of light anywhere, at any time and with graduated intensity.
A key organization on Kirtland Air Force Base , New Mexico, the Directed Energy Directorate has more than 800 people (including in-house contractors) and operates with an annual budget of more than $300 million.
The Directed Energy Directorate is one of 10 similarly-sized subordinate units that comprise Air Force Research Laboratory, the Department of Defense’s largest laboratory, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base , Ohio. With approximately 6,000 military and civilian employees at nine bases throughout the United States, Air Force Research Laboratory is responsible for research and technology development in support of the Air Force's future and existing aerospace and space weapons systems
Strategic Defense Initiative
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), commonly called Star Wars after one of the popular science fiction movies of the time, was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground-based and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the previous strategic offense doctrine of Mutual assured destruction (MAD).
Though it was never fully developed or deployed, the research and technologies of SDI paved the way for some anti-ballistic missile systems of today. The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) was set up in 1984 within the United States Department of Defense to the Strategic Defense Initiative. Under the administration of President Bill Clinton in 1993, its name was changed to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and its emphasis was shifted from national missile defense to theater missile defense; from global to regional coverage. This article covers defense efforts under the SDIO.
Strategic missile defense prior to SDI
SDI was not the first U.S. defensive system against nuclear ballistic missiles. In the 1960s, The Sentinel Program was designed and developed to provide a limited defensive capability, but was never deployed. Sentinel technology was later used in the Safeguard Program, briefly deployed to defend a single U.S. location. In the 1970s the Soviet Union deployed a missile defense system, still operational today, which defends Moscow and nearby missile sites.
SDI is unique from the earlier U.S. and Soviet missile defense efforts. It envisioned using space-oriented basing of defensive systems vs solely ground-launched interceptors. It also initially had the ambitious goal of a near total defense against a massive sophisticated ICBM attack, vs previous systems which were limited in defensive capacity and geographic coverage.
In the fall of 1979, at Reagan's request, Lieutenant General Daniel O. Graham conceived a concept he called the High Frontier, a concept of strategic defense using ground and space based weapons theoretically possible because of emerging technologies. It was designed to replace the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, a doctrine that Reagan and his aides described as a suicide-pact.
The initial focus of the strategic defense initiative was a nuclear explosion powered X-ray laser designed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by a scientist named Peter Hagelstein who worked with a team called O Group, doing much of the work in the late 1970s and early 1980s. O Group was headed by physicist Lowell Wood, a protégé and friend of Edward Teller, the "father of the hydrogen bomb".
Ronald Reagan was told of Hagelstein's breakthrough by Teller in 1983, which prompted Reagan's March 23, 1983, "Star Wars" speech. Reagan announced, "I call upon the scientific community who gave us nuclear weapons to turn their great talents to the cause of mankind and world peace: to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete." This speech, along with Reagan's Evil Empire speech on March 8, 1983, in Florida, ushered in the last phase of the Cold War, bringing the nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union to its most critical point before the collapse of the Soviet Union later that decade.
The concept for the space-based portion was to use lasers to shoot down incoming Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) armed with nuclear warheads. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Hans Bethe went to Livermore in February of 1983 for a 2 day briefing on the x-ray laser, and "Although impressed with its scientific novelty, Bethe went away highly skeptical it would contribute anything to the nation's defense."
] Project and proposals
In 1984, the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) was established to oversee the program, which was headed by Lt. General James Alan Abrahamson, USAF, a past Director of the NASA Space Shuttle program. Research and development initiated by the SDIO created significant technological advances in computer systems, component miniaturization, sensors and missile systems that form the basis for current systems.
Initially, the program focused on large scale systems designed to defeat a Soviet offensive strike. However, as the threat diminished, the program shifted towards smaller systems designed to defeat limited or accidental launches.
By 1987, the SDIO developed a national missile defense concept called the Strategic Defense System Phase I Architecture. This concept consisted of ground and space based sensors and weapons, as well as a central battle management system. The ground-based systems operational today trace their roots back to this concept.
In his 1991 State of the Union Address George H. W. Bush shifted the focus of SDI from defense of North America against large scale strikes to a system focusing on theater missile defense called Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS).
In 1993, the Clinton administration, further shifted the focus to ground-based interceptor missiles and theater scale systems, forming the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and closing the SDIO. Ballistic missile defense has been revived by the George W. Bush administration as the National Missile Defense and Ground-based Midcourse Defense.
Extended Range Interceptor (ERINT)
The ERINT program was part of SDI's Theater Missile Defense Program and was an extension of the Flexible Lightweight Agile Guided Experiment (FLAGE), which included developing hit-to-kill technology and demonstrating the guidance accuracy of a small, agile, radar-homing vehicle.
FLAGE scored a direct hit against a MGM-52 Lance missile in flight, at White Sands Missile Range in 1987. ERINT was a prototype missile similar to the FLAGE, but it used a new solid-propellant rocket motor allowing it to fly faster and higher than FLAGE.
Homing Overlay Experiment (HOE)
It was the first system tested by the Army that employed hit-to-kill, four test launches were conducted in 1983 and 1984. The first three tests failed because of guidance and sensor problems, but the fourth test succeeded. This technology was later used by the SDIO and expanded into the Exoatmospheric Reentry-vehicle Interception System (ERIS) program.
Exoatmospheric Reentry-vehicle Interception System (ERIS)
Developed by Lockheed as part of the ground based interceptor portion of SDI beginning in 1985. At least two tests occurred in the early 1990s. This system was never deployed, but the technology of the system were used in the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and the Ground Based Interceptor currently deployed as part of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system.
Directed-energy weapon (DEW) programs
- See also: Directed-energy weapon
An early focus of the project was to be a curtain of X-ray lasers powered by nuclear explosions. The curtain was to be deployed, first by a series of missiles launched from submarines during the critical seconds following a Soviet attack, then later by satellites and powered by nuclear warheads built into the satellites - in theory the energy from the warhead detonation was to pump a series of laser emitters in the missiles or satellites and produce an impenetrable barrier to incoming warheads. However, the first test on March 26, 1983,, known as the Cabra event, which was performed in an underground shaft, resulted in marginally positive readings that could be dismissed as a faulty detector. Since a nuclear explosion was the power source, the detector was destroyed during the experiment and the results could not be confirmed. Critics often cite the X-ray laser system as the primary focus of SDI and its apparent failure becomes a main reason to oppose SDI. However, the laser was never more than one of the many systems being researched for ballistic missile defense.
Despite the apparent failure of the Cabra test, the long term legacy of the X-ray laser program is the knowledge gained while conducting the research. Several spin-offs include a laboratory x-ray laser for biological imaging and creation of 3D holograms of living organisms, creation of advanced materials like SEAgel and Aerogel, the Electron-Beam Ion Trap facility for physics research and enhanced techniques for early detection of breast cancer.
[ Chemical laser
- See also: Chemical laser
Beginning in 1985, the Air Force tested a deuterium fluoride laser known as Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) at White Sands Missile Range funded by the SDIO. During a simulation, the laser successfully destroyed a Titan missile booster in 1985 and it was successfully tested on target drones simulating cruise missiles for the US Navy. After the SDIO closed, the MIRACL was tested on an old Air Force Satellite for potential use as an Anti-satellite weapon, with mixed results. The technology was also used to develop the Tactical High Energy Laser(THEL) which is being tested to shoot down artillery shells.
Neutral Particle Beam
In July 1989, the Beam Experiments Aboard a Rocket (BEAR) program launched a sounding rocket containing a neutral particle beam (NPB) accelerator. The experiment successfully demonstrated that a particle beam would operate and propagate as predicted outside the atmosphere and that there are no unexpected side-effects to firing the beam in space. After the rocket was recovered, the particle beam was still operational. According to the BMDO, the research on neutral particle beam accelerators, which was originally funded by the SDIO, could eventually be used to reduce the half life of nuclear waste products using accelerator-driven transmutation technology.
Hypervelocity Rail Gun (CHECMATE)
The SDI rail gun investigation, called the Compact High Energy Capacitor Module Advanced Technology Experiment (CHECMATE), had been able to fire two projectiles per day during the initiative. This represented a significant improvement over previous efforts which were only able to achieve about one shot per month. Hypervelocity rail guns are, at least conceptually, an attractive alternative for a spacebased defense system. This is because of their envisioned ability to quickly shoot at many targets. Also, because only the projectile leaves the gun, the gun can carry many projectiles.
A hypervelocity rail gun works very much like a nuclear accelerator. A metal pellet (the projectile) is attracted down a guide (the rail) of magnetic fields and accelerated by the rapid on-off switching of the various fields. The speeds attained by these small projectiles are dazzling. In one experiment a small particle was accelerated to a velocity of more than 24 miles per second (at that speed the projectile could circle our earth at the equator in something less than 20 minutes).
One of the major technical challenges of the rail gun experiments was the rapid firing of the gun. The challenge had to do with the rails. In order to rapidly accelerate the pellet, the rail had to rapidly switch its magnetic fields on and off. This extremely fast switching requires a tremendous current of electricity (almost one-half million amperes) to pass through the rails every time the gun is fired. In some experiments the rails had to be replaced after each firing. Another challenge with the rail gun is the rapid acceleration of the projectile. At the speeds mentioned above, the acceleration stresses the pellet to pressures in excess of 100,000 times the normal force of gravity. In order to be effective, the bullet must be able to withstand the initial acceleration in order to get to the target. Further, if there ever were to be homing devices in larger rail gun projectiles, that projectile would need to be hardened to keep its shape, and the electronics inside it would need to be able to function after being stressed by the initial acceleration.
The purpose of the research into hypervelocity rail gun technology was to build an information base about rail guns so that SDI planners would know how to apply the technology to the proposed defense system.
In addition to being considered for destroying ballistic missile threats, rail guns were also being planned for service in space platform (sensor and battle station) defense. This potential role reflected defense planner expectations that the rail guns of the future would be capable of not only rapid fire, but also of multiple firings (on the order of tens to hundreds of shots).
Laser and mirror experiments
The High Precision Tracking Experiment (HPTE), launched with the Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-51-G, was tested June 21, 1985 when a Hawaii-based low-power laser successfully tracked the experiment and bounced the laser off of the HPTE mirror.
The Relay mirror experiment (RME), launched in February 1990, demonstrated critical technologies for space-based relay mirrors to be used with an SDI Directed-energy weapon system. The experiment validated stabilization, tracking and pointing concepts and proved that a laser could be relayed from the ground to a 60 cm mirror on an orbiting satellite and back to another ground station with a high degree of accuracy and for extended durations.
Launched on the same rocket as the RME, the Low-power Atmospheric Compensation Experiment (LACE) satellite was built by the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to explore atmospheric distortion of lasers and real-time adaptive compensation for that distortion. The LACE satellite also included several other experiments to help develop and improve SDI sensors, including target discrimination using background radiation and tracking ballistic missiles using Ultra-Violet Plume Imaging (UVPI). LACE was also used to evaluate ground based adaptive optics, a technique now used in civilian telescopes to remove atmospheric distortions.
Space-Based Interceptor (SBI)
Groups of interceptors were to be housed in orbital modules. Successful hover testing was completed in 1988 and demonstrated successful integration of the sensor and propulsion systems in the prototype SBI. It also demonstrated the ability of the seeker to shift its aim-point from a rocket's hot plume to its cool body, a first for infrared ABM seekers. Final hover testing occurred in 1992 using miniaturized components similar to what would have actually been used in an operational interceptor. These prototypes eventually evolved into the Brilliant Pebbles program.
Brilliant Pebbles was a non-nuclear system of satellite-based, watermelon-sized, mini-missiles designed to use a high-velocity kinetic warhead. It was designed to operate in conjunction with the Brilliant Eyes sensor system and would have detected and destroyed missiles without any external guidance. The project was conceived in November 1986.
John H. Nuckolls, director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1988 to 1994, described the system as “The crowning achievement of the Strategic Defense Initiative”. The technologies developed for SDI were used in numerous later projects. For example, the sensors and cameras that were developed for Brilliant Pebbles became components of the Clementine mission and SDI technologies may also have a role in future missile defense efforts.
Though regarded as one of the most capable SDI systems, the Brilliant Pebbles program was canceled in 1994 by the BMDO. However, it is being reevaluated for possible future use by the MDA.
SDIO sensor research encompassed visible light, ultra-violet, infrared and RADAR technologies, and eventually led to the Clementine mission though that mission occurred just after the program transitioned to the BMDO. Like other parts of SDI the sensor system initially was very large scale, but after the Soviet threat diminished it was scaled down.
[ Boost Surveillance and Tracking System (BSTS)
BSTS was part of the SDIO in the late-80's, and was designed to assist detection of missile launches especially during the boost phase. However, once the SDI program shifted toward theater missile defense, the system left SDIO control in the early 90's and was transferred to the Air Force.
Space Surveillance and Tracking System (SSTS)
SSTS was a system originally designed for tracking ballistic missiles during their mid-course phase. It was designed to work in conjunction with BSTS, but was later scaled down for the Brilliant Eyes program.
Brilliant Eyes was a simpler derivative of the Space Surveillance and Tracking System (SSTS) that focused on theater ballistic missiles rather than ICBMs and was meant to operate in conjunction with the Brilliant Pebbles system.
Brilliant Eyes was renamed Space and Missile Tracking System (SMTS) and scaled back further under BMDO, and in the late 1990s it became the low earth orbit component of the Air Force's Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS).
Other Sensor Experiments
The Delta 183 program used a satellite known as Delta Star to test several sensor related technologies. Delta Star carried an infrared imager, a long-wave infrared imager, an ensemble of imagers and photometers covering several visible and ultraviolet bands as well as a laser detector and ranging device. The satellite observed several ballistic missile launches including some releasing liquid propellant as a countermeasure to detection. Data from the experiments led to advances in sensor technologies.
In warfighting, countermeasures can have two general meanings:
- The immediate tactical action to reduce vulnerability, such as chaff, decoys, and maneuvering.
- Counter strategies which exploit a weakness of an opposing system, such as adding more MIRV warheads which are less expensive than the interceptors fired against them.
Countermeasures of various types have long been a key part of warfighting strategy. However with SDI they attained a special prominence due to the system cost, scenario of a massive sophisticated attack, strategic consequences of a less-than-perfect defense, outer-space basing of many proposed weapons systems, and political debate.
Whereas the current U.S. NMD system is designed around a relatively limited unsophisticated attack, SDI planned for a massive attack by a sophisticated opponent. This raised significant issues about economic and technical costs defending against anti-ballistic missile defense countermeasures used by the attacking side.
For example if it had been much cheaper to add attacking warheads than to add defenses, an attacker of similar economic power could have simply out produced the defender. This requirement of being "cost effective at the margin" was first formulated by Paul Nitze in November, 1985.
A sophisticated attacker having the technology to use decoys, shielding, maneuvering warheads, or other countermeasures would have multiplied the difficulty and cost of intercepting the real warheads.
SDI envisioned many space-based systems in fixed orbits. In theory an advanced opponent could have targeted those, in turn requiring self-defense capability or increased numbers to compensate for attrition. SDI design and operational planning had to factor in all these countermeasures and the associated cost.
Controversy and criticism
SDI is believed to have been first dubbed "Star Wars" by opponent Dr. Carol Rosin, a consultant and former spokesperson for Wernher von Braun. Some critics used that term derisively, implying it is an impractical science fiction fantasy, but supporters have adopted the usage as well on the grounds that yesterday's science fiction is often tomorrow's engineering. In comments to the media March 7, 1986, Acting Deputy Director of SDIO, Dr. Gerold Yonas, described the name "Star Wars" as an important tool for Soviet disinformation and asserted that the nickname gave an entirely wrong impression of SDI.
Ashton Carter, a fellow at MIT, assessed SDI for Congress in 1984. He said there were a number of difficulties in creating an adequate missile defense shield, with or without lasers. He said X-rays have a limited scope because they become diffused through the atmosphere, much like the beam of a flash light spreading outward in all directions. This means the X-rays needed to be close to the Soviet Union, especially during the critical few minutes of the booster phase, in order for the Soviet missiles to be both detectable to radar and targeted by the lasers themselves. Opponents disagreed, saying advances in technology, such as using very strong laser beams, and by "bleaching" the column of air surrounding the laser beam, could increase the distance that the X-ray would reach to successfully hit its target. Physicist Hans Bethe, who worked with Teller on both the atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb, both at Los Alamos, claimed a laser defense shield was unfeasible. He said that a defensive system was costly and difficult to build, but simple to destroy, and claimed that the Soviets could easily use thousands of decoys to overwhelm it during a nuclear attack. He believed that the only way to stop the threat of nuclear war was through diplomacy and dismissed the idea of a technical solution to the Cold War, saying that a defense shield could be viewed as threatening because it would limit or destroy Soviet offensive capabilities while leaving the American offense intact. In March 1984, Bethe coauthored a 106-page report for the Union of Concerned Scientists that concluded "the X-ray laser offers no prospect of being a useful component in a system for ballistic missile defense."
Teller countered that Bethe and the other anti-defense activists could not have it both ways. Teller said Bethe had helped him usher in the nuclear age, had become opposed to nuclear weapons and afraid of nuclear war. But, Bethe was also opposed to stopping the threat of offensive capabilities through massive defensive programs. Teller testified before Congress that Bethe, "instead of objecting on scientific and technical grounds, which he thoroughly understands, he now objects on the grounds of politics, on grounds of military feasibility of military deployment, on other grounds of difficult issues which are quite outside the range of his professional cognizance or mine."
On 28 June 1985, David Lorge Parnas resigned from SDIO's Panel on Computing in Support of Battle Management, arguing in 8 short papers that the software required by the Strategic Defense Initiative could never be made to be trustworthy and that such a system would inevitably be unreliable and constitute a menace to humanity in its own right.
Supporters of SDI hail it for contributing to or at least accelerating the fall of the Soviet Union by the strategy of technology, which was a prevalent doctrine at the time. At Reagan and Gorbachev's October 1986 meeting in Iceland, Gorbachev opposed this defensive shield, while Reagan wanted to keep it, and offered to give the technology to the Soviets. Gorbachev said he didn't believe the offer, saying "Excuse me, Mr. President, but I do not take your idea of sharing SDI seriously. You don't want to share even petroleum equipment, automatic machine tools or equipment for dairies, while sharing SDI would be a second American Revolution." Both Reagan and Gorbachev proposed total elimination of all nuclear-armed missiles, but SDI and intermediate-range missiles were sticking points. While SDI was a disagreement, the Reykjavik Summit led to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which some have claimed was an outgrowth of Gorbachev's fear of SDI. Opponents of the program say that Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms were the cause of the USSR's collapse and that SDI was an unrealistic and expensive program. Furthermore, some believed that Gorbachev's opposition to SDI was intended to encourage the United States to pursue ABM defense at great economic expense. To quote Gorbachev, "But I think that I am even helping the president [Reagan] with SDI. After all, your people say that if Gorbachev attacks SDI and space weapons so much, it means the idea deserves more respect. They even say that if it were not for me, no one would listen to the idea at all. And some even claim that I want to drag the United States into unnecessary expenditures with this."
There was also the question of how to test this massive weapons system under conditions resembling nuclear war.
Another criticism of SDI was that it would require the United States to modify, withdraw from, or violate previously ratified treaties. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which requires "States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner" would forbid the US from pre-positioning in earth orbit any devices powered by nuclear weapons, or any devices capable of "mass destruction". Only the nuclear pumped X-ray laser would have violated this treaty since other SDI systems would not utilize nuclear weapons. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and its subsequent protocol, which limited missile defenses to one location per country at 100 missiles each, would have been violated by SDI ground-based interceptors. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty requires "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." Many viewed favoring deployment of ABM systems as an escalation rather than cessation of the nuclear arms race, and therefore a violation of this clause.
SDI and MAD
SDI was criticized for potentially disrupting the strategic doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction. MAD postulated that intentional nuclear attack was inhibited by the certain ensuing mutual self-destruction. Even if a nuclear first strike destroyed many of the opponent's weapons, sufficient nuclear missiles would survive to render a devastating counter-strike at the attacker. The criticism was that SDI could have potentially allowed an attacker to survive the lighter counter-strike, thus encouraging a first strike by the side having SDI. Another destabilizing scenario was countries being tempted to strike first before SDI was deployed, thereby avoiding a disadvantaged nuclear posture.
Ronald Reagan responded that SDI would be given to the Soviet Union to prevent the imbalance from occurring. How and whether this massive technology transfer would have happened was often debated. A complication of the MAD argument was that MAD only covered intentional nuclear attacks by a rational opponent with similar values, not accidental launches, rogue launches, or launches by non-state entities.
Another criticism of SDI was that it would not be effective against non-space faring weapons, namely cruise missiles, bombers, and non-conventional delivery methods such as delivery via commercial naval vessels. This latter method in particular would be attractive to terrorists and rogue states as it would be inexpensive, difficult to trace, and technologically undemanding.
Fiction and popular culture
Because of public awareness of the program and its controversial nature, SDI has been the subject of many fictional and pop culture references. This is not intended to be a complete list of those references.
- Dale Brown's novel Silver Tower details the adventures on and around a space station that employs an anti-ICBM laser system called Skybolt against a Soviet invasion of Iran.
- Tom Clancy's novel The Cardinal of the Kremlin is based on part of a race between the USA and USSR to complete laser-based SDI systems.
- Homer Hickam Jr's novel Back to the Moon used leftover SDI weapons, similar to Brilliant Pebbles, in an attempt to kill the crew of shuttle Columbia.
- In the Civilization series, there are several references to ICBM defense systems similar to SDI, including an actual SDI 'National Wonder' project in Civilization 4.
- The comedy movie Real Genius follows college physics prodigies who are unknowingly induced to develop a space-based laser weapon system for the Air Force.
- RoboCop, a brief satirical news story mentions how the Ronald Reagan memorial Strategic Defense platform in orbit malfunctioned, destroying a swath of Southern California in the process.
- Spies Like Us follows two duped 'spies' who are told to launch a single Soviet missile towards the USA as part of a black ops operation to demonstrate and justify the expense of SDI.
- "Star Wars Won't Work" was a song from the 1991 Frank Zappa album Make a Jazz Noise Here.
- Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO)
- National Missile Defense (NMD)
- Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD)
- Missile Defense Agency (MDA)
- Anti-satellite weapons
- Anti-ballistic missile
- Militarization of space
- Frances Fitzgerald (2001). Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0023-3.
- Broad, William J. (1985). Star Warriors: A penetrating look into the lives of the young scientists behind our space age weaponry.. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7881-5115-0. (Reprint edition 1993; Diane Pub. Co.)
- ^ a b Federation of American Scientists. Missile Defense Milestones. Accessed March 10, 2006.
- ^ Daniel O. Graham. Confessions of a Cold Warrior. October 1995. ISBN 0-9644495-2-8.
- ^ Broad, William J. (1992). Teller's War: The Top-Secret Story Behind the Star Wars Deception. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-70106-1. p127.
- ^ Missile Defense Agency. History of the Missile Defense Organization. Accessed March 10, 2006.
- ^ North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Limited Ballistic Missile Strikes. Accessed April 27, 2006.
- ^ White Sands Missile Range. ERINT -- Extended Range Interceptor. Accessed March 10, 2006.
- ^ Encyclopedia Astronautica. SVC / Lockheed HOE. Accessed March 10, 2006.
- ^ Encyclopedia Astronautica. Lockheed ERIS. Accessed March 10, 2006.
- ^ United States Department of Energy. United States Nuclear Tests 1945-1992. Accessed March 10, 2006.
- ^ Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Legacy of the X-Ray Laser Program (PDF). November 1994. Accessed April 29, 2006.
- ^ Federation of American Scientists. Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser. Accessed April 8, 2006.
- ^ Nunz, G. J.; Los Alamos National Laboratory. BEAR (Beam Experiments Aboard a Rocket) Project. Volume 1: Project Summary. Accessed April 29, 2006.
- ^ Missile Defense Agency. BMDO funded research may help reduce the impact of nuclear waste (PDF). Accessed April 29, 2006.
- ^ Lieutenant General Malcolm R. O'Neill. Statement of Lieutenant General Malcolm R. O'Neill, USA, Director, BMDO before the Committee on National Security, House of Representatives, April 4, 1995. Accessed March 11, 2006.
- ^ Encyclopedia Astronautica. Low-power Atmospheric Compensation Experiment (LACE). Accessed April 29, 2006.
- ^ a b Federation of American Scientists. Ballistic Missile Defense. Accessed March 10, 2006.
- ^ Claremont Institute. Brilliant Pebbles. Accessed March 11, 2006.
- ^ The Heritage Foundation. Brilliant Pebbles. Accessed March 11, 2006.
- ^ "Missile Defense Timeline", Missile Defense Agency
- ^ Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Summary of Brilliant Pebbles.Accessed March 11, 2006.
- ^ Federation of American Scientists. Ballistic Missile Defense Technology: Is the United States Ready for A Decision to Deploy?. Accessed March 11, 2006.
- ^ Federation of American Scientists. Boost Surveillance and Tracking System (BSTS). Accessed March 10, 2006.
- ^ Federation of American Scientists. Space and Missile Tracking System. Accessed March 11, 2006.
- ^ The Aerospace Corporation. Delta Star: an SDIO Space Experiment. Accessed June 18, 2006.
- ^ Marilyn Berger. Paul Nitze, Cold War Arms Expert, Dies at 97.(PDF) New York Times. October 20, 2004.
- ^ Dr. Gerold Yonas. SDI:Prospects and Challenges. March 7, 1986.
- ^ Union of Concerned Scientists. Space-Based Missile Defense: A Report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Cambridge, MA. March 1984.
- ^ Parnas, D.L., Software Aspects of Strategic Defense Systems, Communications of the ACM, December 1985, Vol. 28, No. 12, reprinted from American Scientist, Journal of Sigma Xi, Vol. 73, No. 5, pp. 432-440.
- ^ a b c CNN. Reagan-Gorbachev Transcripts. Accessed March 25, 2006.
- ^ Joseph Cirincione. A Brief History of Ballistic Missile Defense. Published July 2, 1998, updated Winter 2000.
- ^ Protocol to the Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems. May 24, 1976.
- Enenstein, "US3427611", Feb., 1969 (Laser System)
- Missile Wars - A PBS Frontline report.
- The Militarization of Science and Space - Commentary and analysis by NMD critic Noam Chomsky.
- Short History of SDI History of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), including the role of Total Quality Management (TQM) in its development
- Nuclear Files.org Ronald Reagan on the Strategic Defense Initiative
- Historical budgetary information