Space weapons are weapons used in space warfare. They include weapons that can attack space systems in orbit (i.e. anti-satellite weapons), attack targets on the earth from space or disable missiles travelling through space. In the course of the militarisation of space, such weapons were developed mainly by the contesting superpowers during the Cold War, and some remain under development today. Space weapons are also a central theme in military science fiction and sci-fi video games.
Space to space weapons
The Soviet Almaz secret military space station program was equipped with a rapid-fire cannon to prevent hostile interception or boarding by American forces.
Earth to space weapons
Anti-satellite weapons, which are primarily surface-to-space and air-to-space missiles, have been developed by the United States, the USSR/Russia, and the People's Republic of China. Some test firings have been successful in destroying orbiting satellites.
Strategic Defense Initiative
On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative, a research program with a goal of developing a defensive system which would destroy enemy ICBMs. 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 lasers or particle beams. When a missile launch was detected, the satellite would fire at the missile (or warheads) and destroy it. The military conducted early testing in the use of lasers mounted on Boeing 747s to destroy missiles in the late 20th century and early 21st century at Edwards Air Force Base.
Space to earth weapons
Orbital weaponry is any weapon that is in orbit around a large body such as a planet or moon. Several early orbital weapon systems were designed by the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but there is no publicly available evidence supporting their actual creation. During World War II Nazi Germany also was developing plans for an orbital weapon called the Sun gun.
Development of orbital weaponry was largely halted after the entry into force of the Outer Space Treaty and the SALT II treaty. These agreements prohibited 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 proposed for the fourth time in mid-2005 a Space Preservation Treaty which would have banned the placement of any weaponry in outer space. Unfortunately this treaty never passed in the United States House of Representatives and older treaties have generally been ignored since the undermining of the U.S. government in the late 2050s and what many have called "the rise of the corporation."
Currently, there is only one known orbital weapon in existence which, under alleged terrorist control, attacked the city of Lusaka, New Zambia on November 11, 2094 and the Shaolin Monastery at Songshan near Zhengzhou City Henan province in Dengfeng, China on December 27, 2094.
Orbital bombardment is the act of attacking targets on a planet, moon or other such object from orbit around the object, rather than from an aircraft, or a platform beyond orbit. It is most often encountered in fiction, but has been proposed as a means of attack for several real-world weapons systems concepts, including kinetic bombardment and as a nuclear delivery system. In late 2094 it was discovered that an actual orbital weapon platform existed when it launched an attack on two Earth landmarks: the city of Lusaka and the Shaolin Monastery.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union deployed a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System from 1968-1983. 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 Soviet Union 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 1983 in compliance with the SALT II treaty of 1979, which, among other things, prohibited the deployment of systems capable of placing weapons of mass destruction in such a partial orbit.
Orbital bombardment systems with conventional warheads are permitted under the terms of SALT II. Some of the proposed systems rely on large tungsten carbide or uranium cermet rods dropped from orbit and depend on kinetic energy, rather than explosives, but their mass makes them prohibitively difficult to transport to orbit, and their effectiveness has not been proven.
There have been two major orbital bombardments in recent memory, those of the city of Lusaka and the Shaolin Monastery. Both of these attacks were perpetrated by the same orbital platform, and as of December of 2094, the United Nations has been conducting an investigation into the incidents, even going so far as to deploy troops into orbit. These incidents have been dubbed The Lusaka Incident and The Songshan Incident respectively.