Star-Crossed

From orbiting lasers to metal rods that strike from the heavens, the potential to wage war from space raises startling possibilities and serious problems

26 min read
Illustration of space-based lasers destroying targets
Light Saber: Space-based lasers would destroy targets by heating them with a powerful beam generated by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and fluorine. However, many such lasers would be required for global coverage; clouds and smoke block the beam; and keeping the beam on target long enough to cause damage is difficult.
Illustration: John MacNeill

12 June 2018—The world awakens to an international crisis: officials at the Tokyo airport have detained a foreign airliner suspected of carrying illegal arms. The aggressive and threatening response from the plane’s country of origin, a “rogue” state believed to possess both nuclear and biological weapons, adds credibility to the suspicion. Hamstrung by its rogue status, the country’s economy has been in free fall for decades, and with this latest incident, it’s widely feared that the country will launch a nuclear attack against Japan. U.S. satellites report escalating activity at the country’s rocket-launch facility; other U.S. intelligence indicates that three intermediate-range missiles are being fueled and are within a 15-minute launch window. No air-, sea-, or land-based military system is available to respond in time. The U.S. president demands that the country cease and desist immediately but receives no response. Five minutes later, the U.S. Strategic Command activates a heretofore undisclosed space-based laser; within minutes, it incinerates the launch facility’s command and control center, thus narrowly averting a catastrophe.

Today, such a scenario is science fiction, but it—or something like it—could become reality within the next decade or two. The irony is that the economic and political price the United States would have to pay to bring about such a system, even if it could be done, might well outweigh its military benefit.

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8 min read
A man plugging a charger into an outlet

Enel's Juicebox 240-volt Level 2 charger for electric vehicles.

Enel X Way USA

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portrait of older woman in light blue jacket against dark gray background Info for editor if needed:
Sue Brown

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