Space Weapons: A Timeline

A ‘Three Lanterns’ Report
By Nathan Revere

What’s up? Space weapons are! U.S. space weapons (not Star Wars weapons that kill missiles, but futuristic “directed energy beam” weapons that kill people) are a major topic of discussion at the United Nations and among political leaders around the world.

Are they already “up there?” This is hard to determine, but the Air Force has been working diligently for several decades towards getting energy beam weapons to work from high altitudes, if not “space,” and it appears that under the direction of former “space commissioner” Donald Rumsfeld, they’re finally making a breakthrough.

Other than the missile defense program popularly known as Star Wars, most Americans have never heard of space weapons, and fewer still have thought out their socio-political implications. And yet these weapons are no longer just devices in science fiction stories designed to scare the impressionable. They are rapidly being developed, and not entirely in secret. But because of the extensive blackout of news within the United States concerning the development of space weapons by its own military, even otherwise highly informed individuals within the US seem out of touch with the new military reality. With the election less than a month away, this may be about to change.

“That’s still years away, and it may turn out to be impossible anyway, so what are we worrying about?” This is the standard response of politicians, based on what they are told by the military, and it has trickled down to intellectuals and political activists. However recent revelations in the past few weeks and months, mostly from foreign sources, indicate that there is cause for immediate concern.

I believe that a chronological analysis of important moments in the history of space weapons will give us insight as to how to answer the question: “How many years away are we from operational space weapons?” It appears that the “space weapons” are already on board planes flying at such altitudes as to be invisible from the ground. In any case, a quick glance at these milestones should give the reader the impression that global military dominance through control of space is a top priority of the Bush administration, even though the President has hardly mentioned the idea in public.

What should also become clear is that the goal of controlling space is to achieve “full spectrum dominance,” overwhelming military power over all other countries, but also a Pavlovian control over political movements and demonstrations, here and abroad.
Here then is a partial timeline of events which I see as important in the development of space weapons and directed energy beams in particular. You can decide for yourself if they pose a threat to democracy and peaceful foreign relations.

Timeline of Major Milestones in Space Weapon Development

1947: Major General Walter Dornberger, formerly in charge of entire Nazi rocket program, now consultant to the US space program, writes in a planning paper about “a system of hundreds of nuclear-armed satellites all orbiting at different altitudes and angles, each capable of re-entering the atmosphere on command from Earth to proceed to its target.” The Air Force begins working on the idea under the acronym NABS (Nuclear-Armed Bombardment Satellites). This evolved into Project BAMBI in the 1950s, and later became part of Reagan’s Star Wars (from Jack Manno’s book Arming the Heavens, see 1984 below.)

October 4, 1957: Sputnik launched by Soviet Union.

November 3, 1957: Sputnik II launched by Soviets, carrying a dog. US citizens worried about national security.

January 31, 1958: First successful Explorer satellite mission launched. Discovers Van Allen belts.

May 15, 1958: Sputnik III launched.

May 1961: NASA chooses RCA at Princeton NJ (Relay) over AT&T (Telstar), Hughes.

July 10, 1962: Telstar launched.

May 7, 1963: Telstar II launched.

September, 1966: Star Trek phaser first seen on TV; Military consults with SF writers.

January 27, 1967: U.N. Outer Space Treaty: ratified by 95 states, signed onto by 27 more. Law One: “The exploration and use of outer space shall be carried on for the benefit and in the interests of all mankind.” It states that nations “shall not place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.” http://www.oosa.unvienna.org/spaceLaw/postxt.htm

October 1967: UN Outer Space Treaty put into force and effect.

1972: ABM Treaty ratified, creating additional rules for use of space, prohibiting space weapons.

1979: UN “Moon Agreement” chartered, “neither the surface nor the subsurface of the moon shall become the property of any person or state.”

1979: Sweeping enhancements to FEMA, consolidation of Presidential emergency powers.

1984: Jack Manno, a professor at SUNY, Environmental Sciences and Forestry College, publishes Arming the Heavens: The Hidden Military Agenda for Space, 1945-1995.

1985: US Space Command formed, “which coordinates the use of Army, Navy, and Air Force space forces…to help institutionalize the use of space.” This group later published the all-important Vision for 2020 with the Buck Rogers-like cover illustration, which coined the expression “full spectrum dominance.” www.progressive.org/gros001.htm

July 5, 1987: Miami Herald published expose of FEMA’s new powers to suspend the US Constitution in the event of national crisis, including “national opposition to a US invasion abroad.” Lt. Col. Oliver North, apparently under the direction of Frank Carlucci, was the architect of these dictatorial revisions. Attorney General’s criticism prevented some measures from being adopted officially, but drafted executive orders survived.

1991: NASA, DOE entered into a Space Nuclear Power Agreement, limiting damages from nuclear accident caused by crash of nuclear-powered vehicles to $100 million.
December 15, 1995: New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century report published. Recommends full U.S. control of space for “full-spectrum dominance.” Intro by Dr. Gene H. McCall, Chair, USAF Scientific Advisory Board, Study Director New World Vistas, who writes, “We hope that our work will succeed in helping to prepare the Air Force for the approaching revolution in the use of military power.” The best-known paragraph from the report, publicized by Karl Grossman: “In the next two decades, new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict. These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills.” www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/vistas/vistas.htm

1996: Publication of Long Range Plan: Vision for 2020, by USSPACECOM,

July 17, 1996: Jane’s Defense Weekly published article by Scott B. Gourley, “Soft Options,” concerning non-lethal weapons.
September 19, 1996: Clinton’s National Space Policy signed, in accordance with ABM and other treaties. Terms are ambiguous as to possibilities, but it honors existing treaties.

1997: Report, Guardians of the High Frontier, published by Air Force Space Command, coining terms like “Master of Space” and “Space is the ultimate ‘high ground.’”

1997: Keith Hall, Asst. Sec. of Air Force for Space, in speech to National Space Club: “With regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it, and we’re going to keep it.”

1997: Steve Wright of the Omega Foundation in England reads an address at an SGR (sponsored by Janes Defense Weekly?) conference on directed energy beams, not just lasers but other invisible types being developed by the US military. At this time, US Marine Academy at Quantico, Va. website features directed energy beams. Current website updated 2002, shows several types of energy beam weapons including Deniable Action Weapons. (See Quantico X-Files: http://www.mcwl.quantico.usmc.mil/xfiles.cfm)

1998: Council on Foreign Relations publishes book by Air Force Colonel Frank Klotz, Space, Commerce, and National Security. www.progressive.org/gros001.htm

1998: Jane’s Defense Weekly sponsors symposium in England which announces new “layered defense concept,” using pain beams to paralyze outer layers of a crowd to get a clear lethal shot at a “terrorist.”

1989: Steve Wright report to Scientific and Technological Operations Assessment, European Parliament: “Technologies of Political Control.”

February, 1998: Le Monde Diplomatique (English version) article “Developing Weapons of the 21st Century.”)

April 7-9, 1998: Annual meeting of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Reps from Air Force Space Command present materials. Michio Kaku speaks. ABL (Airborne Laser) a joint project by Boeing, TRW, Lockheed Martin and USAF is revealed, discussed, a forerunner of a proposed SBL (Space-borne Laser) device. www.inesap.org/bulletin16

April, 1998: Government “calls the development of space-bourne laser (non-nuclear-powered) but a first step” (per Karl Grossman, 6/24/98).

May, 1998: Col. William G. Heckathorn retires; led Army, Navy, and Air Force in long-term united effort to develop directed energy beams for warfare. In 1997 he was commander of the Phillips Laboratory while acting as director of the Advanced Weapons and Survivability Directorate, and deputy director of the Directed Energy Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

June 24, 1998: Karl Grossman speaks to the United Nations (NYC) about nuclear power in space, mentioning the militarization of space. Quotes General Joseph Ashy, Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Space Command as saying, “… its going to happen … absolutely … we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space. That’s why the U.S. has development programs in directed energy and hit-to-kill mechanisms.”

1999: US Senator Charles Robb (VA): “The United States and other nations have rightly avoided placing weapons in space … A space based arms race would be essentially irreversible … it defies reason to assume that nations would sit idle while the United States invests billions of dollars in weaponizing space, leaving them at an unprecedented disadvantage … once this genie is out of the bottle, there is no way to put it back in” (quoted from Karl Grossman’s book Weapons In Space). www.thirdworldtraveler.com/militarization_space.html.

April 1999: Richard B. Myers, commander-in-chief of US Space Command gives speech, “Implementing Our Vision for Space Control,” to US Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, CO. “Space is increasingly at the center of our national and economic security.” He mentions in passing, “… the President’s tasking to me for space control and protection” (Clinton!).

1999: The “Rumsfeld Space Commission” (AKA The Commission to Assess United States National Security, Space Management and Organization) amendment to the FY 2000 defense authorization bill, advocated by Senator Bob Smith (R-NH). Alarmist report claims immediate threat to national security, based on skewed information from The Center for Security Policy; advocates military dominance of space as a solution. www.rightweb.irc-online.org/govt/rum-space.php

December, 1999: Steve Wright, of the Omega Foundation, gives important speech on non-lethal weapons. http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/27a/053.html

January 11, 2001: Donald Rumsfeld releases Second Space Commission report. Rumsfeld becomes Defense Secretary nine days later; other Space Commission panelists are appointed to Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board; 8 of 13 panelists are board members of high-tech military contractors (source: rightweb, see above).

January 20, 2001: George W. Bush inaugurated after Supreme Court declares him the winner in the election.

January, 2001: The Nation publishes article by Judith Long, “Star Wars Boosters.” Says the U.S. military is “eager to make space the battleground of the 21st century.”

March, 2001: Air Force research lab press release on UV-based laser cannon which carries an electrical charge through the air.

March 2, 2001: CNN runs story about “non lethal, active denial technology”: “It’s the kind of pain you would feel if you were being burned,” said Rich Garcia, a spokesman for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. “It’s just not intense enough to cause any damage.” http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/science/03/02/new.weapon.02/

June, 2001: The Nation publishes another article by Judith Long, “Lost In Space.”
2001: Seven Stories Press publishes Weapons In Space by Karl Grossman, one of the first full length books on the subject.

May 1, 2001: Bush speaks at National Defense University at Fort McNair, Washington, DC. (www.whitehouse.gov) calling for the end of ABM treaty. Bush reveals that he had asked Rumsfeld, several months earlier, to “examine all available technologies for effective missile defenses … the secretary has explored a number of complimentary and innovative approaches” — “We should leave behind the constraints of … [the]ABM treaty…. It prohibits us from exploring all options for defending against the threats that face us…”

May 8, 2001: Donald Rumsfeld officially militarizes space in press conference. Much of space development will now be under the classified auspices of the Air Force, not NASA. Reporters ask, “Don’t you see the United States putting weapons in space?” (a question repeated but not answered). Instead of answering, Rumsfeld reads from Clinton policy of Sept. 19, 1996 that is “consistent with treaty obligations.”

August 1, 2001: Erik Baard’s article “Tech Wars in Meat Space: Protest Goes Star-Trek With Non-lethal Weapons,” published by Village Voice.

September 11, 2001: Destruction of World Trade Center. One report proposes possibility of laser technology being used to complete destruction of towers. A few days later, Congress ready to dump ABM, under pressure from the White House.

December 13, 2001: Bill passes to break the ABM Treaty, to pave the way for “Star Wars.” In fact, it opens the door for space weapons.

January 2002: Introduction of the Space Preservation Act, championed by Cleveland Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D Ohio), “to preserve the cooperative peaceful uses of space for the benefit of all humankind by prohibiting the basing of weapons in space and the use of weapons to destroy or damage objects in space … and for other purposes.”

May 10, 2002: 10th Annual International Space Organizing Conference and Protest, UC-Berkeley, including peace movement leaders from 12 nations. http://www.globenet.free-online.co.uk/actions/may1002.htm

May, 2002: RAND Report to USAF: Space Weapons, Earth Wars. Group led by Bob Preston takes position that space has always been about national security. Report describes directed energy weapons of various kinds, including laser, uv, radio-frequency or microwave.

May 15, 2002: article describing RAND report by Leonard David published in www.space.com.

May 22, 2002: Website updated at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio declares: “The advent of high-power microwave and ultrawide band directed energy weapons make the Branch’s products and services ever more essential. Our goal is to provide the USAF with the world’s best RFR bioeffects research and science-based exposure standards, allowing maximum safe exploitation of directed energy for the national defense.” http://www.brooks.af.mil/AFRL/HED/hedr/hedr.html

September 13, 2002: Berkeley CA passed a resolution that persons can declare the space over their head a nuclear-free zone.

September 15, 2002: Dennis Kucinich speaks at Berkeley about space weapons.

October 25, 2002: Steve Wright gives major talk in London to Expert Seminar on Security Equipment and the Prevention of Torture: “Future Sub-Lethal Technologies.”

April 2003: US military budget sent to Congress. Although there is a line item for “missle defense” there is no mention of space weapons, and no request for funding.

November 2003: US Air Force Transformation Flight Plan issued internally.

November, 2003: Bush sends a private letter to Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin pressuring him to accept a $181 million a year contract to “test space weapons.” Early in the following year, Martin reveals this fact to Parliament, also in secret. Note: US Congress has not seen a request for such funds for space weapons, only for Star Wars, and therefore, we presume, finds out about it after Parliament does.

November 1, 2003: The U.N General Assembly votes to reaffirm the Outer Space Treaty, establishing space for peaceful uses. Almost 140 nations vote for the resolution entitled, “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space.” Only two nations decline to support the bill: The United States and Israel. www.progressive.org/gros001.htm

February 13, 2004: US Air Force Transformation Flight Plan published after three month delay. It essentially changes the deadline for a fully operational space war machine from 2020 to 2015, with many well-detailed, short-term deliverables. Although the US has issued no policy changes, this document outlines a policy in conflict with the 1996 one. Until this point, USAF officials have stated that, “there are no space weapons programs currently being funded.” Reviewed by Theresa Hitchens on February 19, 2004 for Center for Defense Information.

March 3, 2004: Raytheon sponsors a Bear Stearns Commercial Aerospace and Defense Conference; Photos of land-based “pain beam” weapons posted on the Raytheon website: http://www.raytheon.com/finance/stellent/groups/public/documents/legacy_site/cms01_047199.pdf

2004: Bradford University’s Fifth Annual report on Non-lethal weapons in UK.

May 31, 2004: Front page article in Ottawa Citizen by David Pugliese reveals that Prime Minister Paul Martin told Parliament months earlier that Bush “lied” about Star Wars and is secretly working on space weapons. Martin says he will never accept money for space weapons, but may participate in Star Wars. Pugliese continues to write columns every week on space weapons. World leaders are concerned, no US press coverage.

June, 2004: The Air Force Command Strategic Master Plan published, Foreword by General Lance W. Lord of Air Force Space Command. According to the Sunday Herald (Scotland) it is “a clear statement of the US’s intentions to dominate the world by turning space into the crucial battlefield of the 21st century. The document details how the US Air Force Space Command is developing exotic new weapons, nuclear warheads and spacecraft to allow the US to hit any target on earth within seconds. It also unashamedly states that the US will not allow any other power to get a foothold in space.” http://www.topsight.net/article.php?story=20030623215050361

June, 2004: Popular Science publishes first article on space weapons plans in a mainstream publication. Article: “Is This What War Will Come To?” By Eric Adams.

June 3, 2004: Kerry issues a foreign policy and military plan containing a paragraph proposing using energy beam weapons on Iraqis.

June 10, 2004: Jacob Levich publishes article in www.counterpunch.org called “John Kerry’s World of Hurt: Senator Would Zap Iraqis (or WTO Protesters) with Futuristic Pain Beams.”

June 28, 2004: Space weapons a major issue in Canadian elections, helping to bring defeat to Bush clone Steven Harper, who is eager to sign space weapons contracts.

July 22, 2004: Congress passes law to prevent suspension of Federal Elections in case of attack.

July 23, 2004: Dennis Kucinich, the leader in Congress against the militarization of space, endorses Kerry, commenting, “he won’t abuse the power of his office.”

[Web-posted Oct. 10, 2004 by Greg Moses]