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Charged Particle Beam Weapons

  1. Apr 30, 2005 #1
    Does anyone know what were the methods suggested to contain charged particle beams in Reagan's Star Wars program and why did the suggested methods fail?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 30, 2005 #2


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    Actually, with a 'charged' particle beam in space, i.e. not inside an accelerator where the dispersion is controlled by the magnetic field, one gets a dispersed beam. So the high energy particles, light nuclei, have to be neutralized. The idea was to deploy particle beams (also laser beams and kinetic energy projectiles) against ICBM warheads, but that only works out if the warheads get out of the atmosphere.

    In general, in addition to getting a good beam density, there were two problems for the particle beam weapons - 1) the earth's atmosphere, 2) the earth's magnetic field. Collisions with the atmospheric (air) molecules cause ionziation (loss of energy), and then the ions would interact with the earth's magnetic field.

    There were some ideas of how to overcome those issues, but I'm not sure if they have been released in the public domain. Some were pretty nutty ideas. :biggrin:

    There was also the issue of the power source - Multi-megawatt reactors and power plants. This was another major problem. The various concepts weighed a lot, e.g. on the order of 10-100 MT (10,000 - 100,000 kgs), and at about $10,000/kg ($100 million - 1 billion/platform just to get them into space), it would have been very expensive to establish a network.

    The available HLLV's were limited. Then look at what the space shuttle can handle - and the fact that the fleet of 5 has managed 107 missions with the loss of 2 craft!!!!

    It took awhile, but the Reagan administration finally figured out their plan just wouldn't work.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2005
  4. Apr 30, 2005 #3
    So in effect it is virtually impossible to make the things work. Good thing anyway, I wouldn't have liked the Soviets to get such a capability.

    Anyway, Thanks for the info. :)
  5. May 1, 2005 #4


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    Unfortunately (or fortunately), it took physicists, especially accelerator physicists, only 2 seconds to figure out it wouldn't work - the length of time to say "space charge".

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