A “Star Wars” sequel? The allure of directed energy for space weapons

By Jeff Hecht | June 28, 2019

The high-energy lasers of the 1980s were unwieldy assemblages of tanks, tubes, and plumbing that produced light by burning flowing gases, and the space shuttle was not ready for “space trucking.” In the decades since then, though, laser technology has come a long way, and the giggle factor of these technologies – dubbed “Star Wars” weapons by their detractors – is gone. High-energy solid-state lasers, not available in the Reagan era, are now being tested to shoot down rockets, mortars, and drones at hundreds of meters or more on the battlefield. Their success so far has led the Pentagon to reconsider high-energy lasers and other directed energy weapons for missile defense and perhaps other military applications on the fringes of space and in orbit. But are new actors merely making the same mistakes again, in an updated setting?

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Are new actors merely making the same Reagan-era mistakes again, in an updated setting?

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