.. s on many key points, including the desirability of 50% reductions in nuclear weapons. Among unresolved issues were exact procedures for ensuring effective verification of any new agreement and the preferred relationship between strategic offensive and defensive forces. The United States favored the rapid and eventual deployment of nationwide defensive systems, as indicated by its support of the Strategic Defense Initiative. The Soviet Union was sharply critical of SDI. They did not want the system employed because that would have meant losing the arms race.
By 1985, the Space Shuttle was conducting missions in space for the SDI program. The 18th Shuttle flight took place on June 17 – 24, 1985, in Discovery, with commander Daniel C. Brandenstein and a crew of six. During this mission three communications satellites were deployed. In 1990, the public found out that those satellites were collecting data for the SDI program. In an experiment designed by the U.S. Defense Department, reflectors were placed in each satellite to test the ability of ground based lasers to focus in space targets.
The 39th space shuttle mission, and the eighth for Atlantis, took place from April 5 – 11, 1991, with commander Air Force Col. Steven R. Nagel and a crew of four specialists. Atlantis deployed a $617 million Gamma Ray Observatory into orbit approximately 280 miles (450 km) above the Earth, which was also used for SDI research. The crew logged 22 hours of spacewalking.
Space shuttle Discovery was launched on Apr. 28, 1991, and! returned to Earth on May 6. Its military mission was concerned with collecting data for the SDI antimissile program. The mission commander was U.S. Navy Capt. Michael L.
Coats. He was assisted by a pilot and crew of four. The costs of SDI are so huge, any where from $100 to $200 billion, that a new, less expensive scheme was proposed in 1988. This new scheme was called “Brilliant Pebbles,” it would consist of several thousand space based “interceptors,” each independently guided by a powerful built-in computer and an electronic eye. The interceptor would track the heat plume of the just-fired missile and steer a collision course.
However, new, “fast-burn” missiles could outwit the interceptors and possible out run them. Because of reduced tensions with the Soviets and lower defense budgets, the Clinton administration has cut back on funding for SDI, although tests of component systems continue and plans for some form of deployment remain in place. During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, computer software developed under SDI guided the Patriot missiles used with mixed success to intercept Iraqi Scud missiles. Many experts believed the system was impractical. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the signing of the START I and II treaties, and the election in 1992 of Bill Clinton as president, SDI, like many other weapons programs, were given a lower budgetary priority. In 1993 Les Aspin announced the abandonment of SDI and the establishment of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), a less expensive program that would make use of ground-based antimissile systems. The SDI system was originally planned to provide a layered defense employing advanced weapons technologies, several of which were only in a preliminary research stage.
The goal was to intercept incoming missiles in midcourse, high above the earth. The weapons required included space-based and ground-based nuclear X-ray lasers, subatomic particle beams, and computer-guided projectiles fired by electromagnetic rail guns, all under the central control of a supercomputer system. Supporting these weapons would have been a network of space-based sensors and specialized mirrors for directing the laser beams toward targets. Some of these weapons were in development, but others, particularly the laser systems and the supercomputer control, were not certain to be attainable. The total cost of such a system was estimated at between $100 billion and $1 trillion.
Actual expenditures amounted to about $30 billion. The initial annual budget for BMDO was 3.8 billion. Cost was not the only controversial issue surrounding SDI. Critics of SDI, including several former government officials, leading scientists, and some NATO members, maintained that the systemeven if it had proved workablecould have been outwitted by an enemy in many ways. Also, other nations feared that the SDI system could have been used offensively.
SDI would be a defense and offensive weapon against nuclear missiles if it were to be fully researched and developed; but because of defense cuts and the end of the Cold War Era, the threat of a nuclear war with Russia is slowly becoming obsolete. Now there is a new threat, third world countries. President Regan’s plan never really fully developed because the weapons that were being asked to be developed were unrealistic even for the technology available today. The Strategic Defense Initiative would benefit the U.S. because it would deter nuclear attacks on the U.S.
United States military research program for developing an antiballistic missile (ABM) defense system, first proposed by President Ronald Reagan in March 1983. The Reagan administration vigorously sought acceptance of SDI by the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. As initially described, the system would provide total U.S. protection against nuclear attack. The concept of SDI marked a sharp break with the nuclear strategy that had been followed since the development of the armaments race.
This strategy was based on the concept of deterrence through the threat of retaliation. More specifically, the SDI system would have contravened the ABM Treaty of 1972. For this reason and others, the SDI proposal was attacked as a further escalation of the armaments race. With tensions raising in the Mid-East, and the capability of making Nuclear weap! ons, revival of SDI components is not such a bad idea. The government refuses to do this because of budget cuts, but it is in the best interest of the human race if it is brought back into the lime light. Taylor, L.B. Space: Battleground of the Future? New York, F.
Watts 1988. Adams, Kathleen “Strategic Defense Initiative” Time 1/16/95 p.16-32. Wright, Robert “Crazy State” New Republic 12/15/94 p.6-8. Ressmeyer, Roger “Missile Warning Woes” Popular Mechanics March 94 p.32-36. Grossnan, Daniel and Seth Shulman “Stars by Another Name” Discover January 94 p.96-100.