The defensive system was nicknamed Star Wars , after the movie, by its detractors. Some concepts of the system included Brilliant Pebbles , which were Kinetic Kill Vehicles, essentially small rockets launched from satellites toward their targets a warhead, warhead bus, or even an upper stage of an ICBM. Other aspects included satellites in orbit carrying powerful laser weapons or particle beams. When a missile launch was detected, the satellite would fire at the missile or warheads and destroy it.
Although no real hardware was ever manufactured for deployment, the military did test the use of lasers mounted on Boeing s to destroy missiles in the s, however these were discontinued due to practical limitations of keeping a constant fleet airborne near potential launch sites due to the lasers range limitations keeping a small number from being sufficient.
The tests took place at Edwards Air Force Base. Orbital weaponry is any weapon that is in orbit around a large body such as a planet or moon. As of September , there are no known operative orbital weapons systems, but several nations have deployed orbital surveillance networks to observe other nations or armed forces.
During World War II Nazi Germany was also developing plans for an orbital weapon called the Sun gun , an orbital mirror that would have been used to focus and weaponize beams of sunlight. These agreements prohibit weapons of mass destruction from being placed in space. As other weapons exist, notably those using kinetic bombardment , that would not violate these treaties, some private groups and government officials have proposed a Space Preservation Treaty which would ban the placement of any weaponry in outer space.
Orbital bombardment is the act of attacking targets on a planet, moon or other astronomical object from orbit around the object, rather than from an aircraft, or a platform beyond orbit. It has been proposed as a means of attack for several weapons systems concepts, including kinetic bombardment and as a nuclear delivery system. Using this system, a nuclear warhead could be placed in low Earth orbit , and later de-orbited to hit any location on the Earth's surface.
While the Soviets deployed a working version of the system, they were forbidden by the Outer Space Treaty to place live warheads in space. The fractional orbital bombardment system was phased out in January in compliance with the SALT II treaty of , which, among other things, prohibited the deployment of systems capable of placing weapons of mass destruction in such a partial orbit.
As of the only true orbital bombardment in history has been executed for scientific purposes. The CAN laser consists of many small lasers working together to generate a single powerful beam. This device is currently under development to drive particles at high speeds in atom smashers. The scientists would use the laser to vaporize a thin film of matter off the surface of debris.
The resulting high-speed plasma would act like a rocket plume, nudging the junk downward, and away from the space station to eventually burn up in Earth's atmosphere. A full-scale version of their system would be armed with a ,watt ultraviolet CAN laser that can fire 10, pulses per second, each lasting one-tenth of one-billionth of a second. The researchers say this system could blast debris from a range of about 60 miles kilometers , and the laser would need about 17 lbs.
The scientists plan to deploy a small proof-of-concept version of their system at the International Space Station. A RIKEN spokesman noted that the mini-EUSO telescope has been accepted as a project on the International Space Station and could perhaps go up in or , but the laser system is still a concept that has not been built. If the proof-of-concept and full-scale versions of this system are successful, the researchers suggest developing a satellite devoted solely to blasting space debris.
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