Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were designing a giant one-mile wide ‘sun gun’ that would orbit Earth and burn cities. The technology would have worked similarly to a giant mirror that would reflect and concentrate the sun’s rays and burn cities on Earth to a crisp.
The satellite which was dubbed ‘the space mirror’ had been planned to orbit the Earth 5,100 miles above the equator. The revelation was made in a 1945 article called ‘Nazi Men of Science Seriously Planned To Use a Manmade Satellite As A Weapon for Conquest’ in Life Magazine.
The article reveals that one of the main problems was that with technology at the time, there would not have been a rocket powerful enough to lift the weapon into space. But had the Nazi’s managed to get it into space, it would have been able to “burn an enemy city to ashes or to boil part of an ocean”.
Recently while speaking to an audience of active-duty airmen, US Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein predicted it’ll only be a “matter of years” before American forces find themselves “fighting from space.”
Goldfein has been a proponent of “multi-domain operations” — the idea that, to prevail in future wars, commanders need battlefield intelligence coming from “all domains,” including air, cyber, ground, sea, and space. “I look forward to discussing how we can leverage new technology and new ways of networking multi-domain sensors and resilient communications to bring more lethality to the fight,” he said.
To prepare to fight from space, the Air Force will have to invest in new technology but also in the training of leaders. Goldfein said he has charged Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the commander of Air Education and Training Command, to develop a program to train officers and non-commissioned officers for space operations.
Military personnel are involved in a space race of their own as armed forces around the globe look to dominate space to get ahead in wars in the cosmos.
Future wars will inevitably involve more high tech weaponry and the country which can dominate space will not only have spacecraft in position ready for battle but also satellites which can heavily influence fighting on the ground.
The narrative that the Air Force is more focused on space also is reflected in the budget proposal for fiscal year 2019. According to budget documents, the Air Force is seeking $8.5 billion for space programs — $5.9 billion in the research and development accounts, and $2.6 billion for procurement of new satellites and launch services.
The 2019 request is 7.1 percent more than the Air Force sought in last year’s budget. Over the next five years, the Air Force projects to invest $44.3 billion in space systems — $31.5 billion in research and development, and $12.8 billion in procurement. That would mark an 18 percent increase over the $37.5 billion five-year plan submitted last year.
Eminent German rocket scientist Hermann Oberth came up with the space mirror concept in 1923, according NASA. Oberth originally intended the space mirror for peaceful purposes such as illuminating ports and thawing frozen rivers, but the concept may have taken on its “Death Star” undertones with the rise of Nazism in the 1930s.
After the war, Oberth attempted to bring other nations around to the idea, again promoting the space mirror’s peacetime applications. In a 1961 interview, the scientist suggested the U.S. build a mirror 300 miles in diameter and capable of terraforming Earth, using materials sourced from the moon to drive down cost.
Oberth wasn’t the only one to champion far-out space weapons. During the Cold War, German-American rocket scientist Wernher von Braun lobbied the U.S. military to build a space-based weapon influenced by Oberth’s ideas to combat the USSR. Von Braun said, “If we do not wish them to wrest the control of space from us, it’s time, and high time we acted.”