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Wild Space Weapons IdeasWhile space has been an excellent forum for peaceful exploration, it is also an excellent high ground from which to gain a military advantage. Spy satellites have been in use for decades. And in one form or another, as long as the Space Age has been around, various agencies have envisioned using space as a platform for missile launches or other activities. In this slide show, check out the top 10 space weapon concepts from over the years. (This slideshow was updated on Dec. 21, 2016).
FIRST STOP: Missiles
Here's a look at 10 nasty ways warfare may reach space.
MissilesSlide 2 of 21
Missiles have actually been used for about 1,000 years, although Encyclopedia Britannica points out that there is no authoritative history of the first rockets. China is usually cited as the location where rockets first appeared, followed by Europe. Metal-cylinder rockets were first used in India in the 18th century, which sparked an English version from Sir William Congreve. Rockets were also used in a limited way in the Mexican-American War, the American Civil War and the First World War.
Vast improvements in rocketry, however, began to show up in the military field in the Second World War. Both the Axis Powers and the Allies used missiles, but it was the German V-2 rocket that attracted the most attention, due to the more than 1,000 missiles that were fired at Britain. When Germany lost the war, several of the nation's rocket scientists were picked up by the Soviet Union and the United States. This helped improve rocket technology in both countries and spurred the space race between the superpowers. Missiles are, of course, still in use today, especially as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs, see future slides for more information).
NEXT: DARPA's MAHEMSlide 3 of 21
DARPA's MAHEMSlide 4 of 21
Enemies facing down a device that blasts streams of molten metal probably won't stand much of a chance. This idea, popularized in science fiction novels such as Arthur C. Clarke's "Earthlight" (1955), may become real someday thanks to the funding of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition (MAHEM) was announced in 2008. While no updates have occurred for quite some time, the page for MAHEM is still active on DARPA's website. The program promises "the potential for higher efficiency, greater control, and the ability to generate and accurately time multiple jets and fragments from a single charge," with what DARPA officials wrote is "lethality precision." MAHEM could possibly be deployed on rockets, the officials added.
NEXT: A Tactical High Energy LaserSlide 5 of 21
Project THELSlide 6 of 21
The Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) program ran between 1996 and 2005, according to Northrop Grumman. THEL was created as a joint project between the United States and Israel. During that decade of development, the ground-based system destroyed 46 mortar rounds, rockets and artillery — all of which were airborne.
While the program is no longer active, Northrop Grumman says the technology is now being reconstructed for the U.S. Army's Solid State Laser Testbed Experiment that, like THEL, will take place at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
NEXT: Weaponized SatellitesSlide 7 of 21
Weaponized SatellitesSlide 8 of 21